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23rd July 2021

Report calls for breakthrough diagnostics to be funded like new medicines

Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland has launched a new report calling for the system of funding for diagnostics to be the same as for new medicines to ensure innovations reach patients sooner.

The Future of Diagnostics Delivery in the UK report, which is backed by both the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) and the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), is based on interviews with leading figures in Government, the NHS and UK pathology community.

The findings highlight the clear discrepancy between the value diagnostics deliver to the health system and the investment it currently receives, and focuses on three key areas of development for strengthening the UK diagnostics sector of the future and improving patient access to diagnostic innovations:

  1. Expanding the size and profile of the NHS pathology service;
  2. Developing the future testing landscape; and
  3. Increasing the uptake of innovative diagnostics across care pathways.

The UK Life Sciences Vision, published earlier this month, highlights early diagnosis and treatment as one of seven key missions. Despite this, and the fact that in vitro diagnostics inform 70% of all clinical decisions taken in the NHS, just £1 is invested in diagnostic testing for every £100 spent. Compared to 31 European countries, the UK ranks 22nd on in vitro diagnostics expenditure per capita; in 2020, the UK spent €16 per capita, compared to €26 in Italy and Germany, €35 in Belgium, and €55 in Switzerland. The report also highlights that while 95% of all clinical pathways rely on patient access to pathology services, funding for pathology only accounts for 2% of the NHS budget.

The new report from Roche Diagnostics builds on work undertaken by partners in the sector, including an ABHI report published last yearand makes a series of important recommendations to inform the direction of diagnostics delivery in the UK. These include:

  • The full recommendations of the NHS MedTech Funding Mandate should be implemented immediately to ensure that innovations that are both clinically and cost-effective are clearly commissioned and funded across the NHS, and then adopted by hospitals and commissioners.
  • The Government should undertake a major drive to expand the pathology workforce, and greater focus must be given to support career development and education, through training, upskilling and apprenticeships.
  • A new UK Diagnostics Coalition should be established to champion the work of both the pathology and diagnostic sectors.
  • The COVID-19 testing infrastructure should be integrated into NHS pathology services and repurposed to support screening of at-risk cohorts for early signs of other diseases.
  • A system-wide approach to focus on outcomes rather than activity reimbursement should be adopted to drive uptake of diagnostic innovations.

The report follows last week’s warning by the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, that the UK will see an unprecedented spike in influenza and respiratory syncytial virus infections, and a doubling of deaths from flu this Winter.

Geoff Twist, managing director, Roche Diagnostics (UK and Ireland), said: “From prevention to disease management, diagnostic testing has always been vital to patients and clinicians. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has irrefutably demonstrated the essential role that diagnostics plays in the health of every citizen in this country.

“Through effective collaboration we’ve shown that new diagnostic innovation can be developed and rolled out at speed across the NHS – and the significant benefit this has for patients. But innovation is only effective when it reaches the people who need it, so we need to build on this momentum and ensure we seize this unique opportunity to build a strong and sustainable UK diagnostics sector that is fit for the future.”

David Wells, chief executive, Institute of Biomedical Science, said: “Now is the time to be thinking about the future of diagnostics. As the UK sector expands, we must ensure that the workforce is highly skilled and regulated, that the diagnostic industry, new and existing laboratories and testing streams ensure world class quality and safety and, most importantly, that we continue to supply education and training opportunities for the pipeline of future scientists.

“If we get this right and expand efficiently, we will become a global leader that can deliver on all the care and testing that all our citizens need – with enough expertise and infrastructure left over for innovation and discovery.”

Nishan Sunthares, chief operating officer, ABHI, added: “The NHS and Government’s ambitious goal to develop a world-leading diagnostics sector must be matched with long-term, sustainable investment and championing of testing which make a real difference to patients. We must work together to remove the current barriers and ensure patients are really benefiting from the significant value of diagnostics.

“The findings and recommendations of this report are critical as we look to recover from the pandemic and help safely keep as many people as possible out of secondary care and on the right treatment pathway.”