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Innovative Treatments and Technologies

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 14 November 2017

9. What plans the Government have to improve the availability of access to innovative treatments and technologies in the NHS. (901815)

On 3 November, we published our response to the accelerated access review. We set out plans to give patients quicker access to life-changing treatments and to make the UK the best place in the world for industry to invest and innovate. We are delighted that Sir Andrew Witty will chair the group overseeing the accelerated access pathway, which will fast-track around five breakthrough products each year and support adoption and uptake of innovation across the NHS.

The technologies used at the neonatal unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are now considered essential by my constituents in Gordon. The unit serves 500,000 people who live within 90 minutes of Aberdeen. What assessment has the Minister made of the importance of proximity of medical innovations to regional communities?

I am pleased to hear that from my hon. Friend. It is good to know that we are on track to achieve our ambition to reduce the rates of stillbirth, neonatal and maternal deaths and perinatal brain injuries by 20% by 2020. Innovations such as those in Aberdeen have contributed to that work. It is important that our regional communities have access to specialist care of the kind my hon. Friend describes, and we hope to deliver more through the accelerated access pathway.

Is the Minister aware that more than 60% of health innovation research funding goes to the “golden triangle” and less than 13% goes to the north? Given that Manchester and the north-west have a life-sciences hub and that the devolution of health provides great opportunities, is it not about time we got our fair share to ensure that we can close the gap in some health outcomes?

I cannot disagree with the hon. Lady’s point. One reason why we set up the accelerated access review and pathway was to make sure that we invest where innovation is taking place. There is no reason why Manchester cannot be a part of that.

22. Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Laughter.] It goes back a long way, and one day it will be no more.One of the innovative treatments that is being offered in my constituency that concerns me is the use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for children who identify as transgender. Does the Minister agree that an improvement would actually mean the restriction of such treatments for under-18s? (901828)

My hon. Friend makes a serious point. Health is a devolved matter in Wales. The NHS in England has strict guidelines on the prescription of puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormones for youngsters. Such treatments may be prescribed only with the agreement of a specialist multidisciplinary team and after a very careful assessment of the individual. We keep a watching eye on these matters.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

A strong UK pharmaceuticals industry is important for ensuring that the NHS can access innovative treatments, but there is uncertainty over whether UK-qualified persons who certify medical products and devices as safe will be able to continue to do so for European countries post-Brexit. This is unwelcome, and risks countries choosing to relocate outside the UK. When will there be clarity about the future European relationships for medical device approval?

I can confirm to the hon. Lady that we have offered mutual recognition. She is right to raise this important subject because it is obviously vital that we maintain safety throughout the NHS, and access to pharmaceuticals is part of that.