A fundamental change in the way Government, the pharmaceutical industry and health providers interact is essential if the best possible healthcare is to be provided to patients, delegates at a major London conference heard today.
And a call was made for the Government to redefine what is meant by healthcare productivity in the patient's interest. Productivity must reflect the outcomes experienced by patients rather than being focused on activities performed on them.
The call for action was made by the Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Dr Richard Barker, at the 12th annual pharmaceuticals conference, organised by the Economist magazine. He said the need for change was urgent.
"We face a situation where life-saving and -changing treatments that patients demand are simply not getting through in enough quantity and quickly enough," he said. Dr Barker, who was chairing the event, said that his new "rules of engagement" required each of the main players - industry, governments and healthcare providers - fundamentally to change their mindset and behaviour, if life science advances are to realise their potential to change the lives of patients.
As far as industry was concerned, it must become a partner rather than merely a supplier. "Fundamentally, we need to shape our business around the needs of health providers to become part of the solution, not part of the problem of healthcare productivity. 'Develop and sell' must give way to 'innovate and engage'," Dr Barker said.
New forms of engagement were already being tried in areas as diverse as mental health, neurology, cardiovascular, respiratory and vaccines - but these were just first steps on the way.
For the Government, it was important to find new ways to measure productivity in a more patient-focused way by looking at actual outcomes rather than activities. It was not enough simply to see and treat more people; the quality of long-term care from the patient's perspective was what truly mattered.
It was in this context that Dr Barker made his call for a new initiative to help redefine productivity in the patient's interest, assessing the best measures and how they could be incorporated in NHS management procedures. This can form part of a strongly developing dialogue between industry and government on the joint strategy to ensure the UK remains a life science leader, in an era of increasing global competition.
"If we get the competitive conditions and the approach to productivity right, then we can have a dynamic pharmaceutical sector, faster uptake of innovation, and vastly improved patient outcomes," Dr Barker told the conference.
He also stressed that local healthcare providers need to engage open-mindedly with pharmaceutical companies and not just react to new approaches as old 'sales' conducted in a new fashion.
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