Partnership between industry and the NHS – how should it work?


Earlier this month, we held a roundtable for industry, tech and NHS facilitated by Zoe Bedford, CEO, ZPB Associates and led by Professor Ian Abbs, Chief Executive Officer of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, and part of the leadership team at SC1.


The attendees were a mix of senior leadership across tech, pharma and the health service, representing key parts of the healthcare system from discovery and analytics, through to diagnostics, discharge and remote monitoring.


The event focused on what partnerships between industry and the NHS should involve, and how they can bring real value. The discussion centred around whether it is possible for such initiatives to attract global commercial investment and attention whilst also meaningfully addressing highly localised health inequalities.


There were a number of key topics that were discussed with the six key elements below.


1. Positivity

It was fabulous to hear a head of a key UK hospital talk to so positively about the benefit and need for partnership with the commercial sector. Although, there have been challenges in the past and the complexity of potentially “selling” to 42 separate ICSs, there was a general feeling of opportunity moving forward.


2. “Substitutive” over “Additive”

There is a clear challenge around budgets and commercial partnership. One of the concepts that was reviewed and created much interest related to how we can make new initiatives “substitutive” as opposed to “additive”. How can we ensure that when the health service is adopting a new technology or service that it replaces something? How can we make it substitute in as opposed to be something added on top. This is tough for an individual organisation to identify as they may not have sight of all budgets, but all new initiatives cannot be funded by additional budget or simply run in parallel with existing initiatives.


3. Disruption

There was an over-riding feeling that things need to change. There must be disruption but this needs to be balanced with continuity, transparency and sensitive to its context. In traditional healthcare, this context is highly complex and subsequently can be slow to change and risk-averse. Creativity is needed and the current model is not sustainable. Similar to 2020 and the COVID issues, this challenge will drive innovation and new thinking. Our job collectively is to demonstrate that high quality healthcare is available in a sustainable way.


4. Population health and data

The topic of data was of great interest and conversation. “We need actionable insights from data, not data for data’s sake”. Could we create larger “grids” for the interpretation of data? Much deliberation took place about whether we could get to a national picture for most datasets. Clearly challenging, but there was an acceptance that there is eagerness to get to quality national data sets for the betterment of patient care.


5. Health inequalities

A hot topic across pharma, tech and the NHS. Ensuring equity of treatment and outcomes and “limiting variation in care” was key for all attendees. There is a great awareness of this inequality without the solutions always available. This must continue as a priority to remove this this variation. Targeted appropriate audience-led communication can support this.


6. Value degradation is non-negotiable

The final point that underpinned much of the discussion, was around continued world class patient care and patient outcomes. Value degradation must be avoided and is non-negotiable. Partnerships between the NHS and commercial sector with disruption & innovation will ensure amazing patient care will continue across the UK.


If you would like any further information, please contact:

Carwyn Jones

Chief Commercial Officer, ZPB Associates

carwyn.jones@zpb-associates.com