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NHS Innovation

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2018

14. What plans the Government have to improve access to innovative treatments and technologies in the NHS. (907222)

We are bringing a tech revolution to the NHS to improve patient outcomes and reduce waste. Today I am delighted to announce the selection of the first batch of products under the accelerated access collaborative, as well as funding for tech test beds to ensure that more patients get faster access to the most effective innovations.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer. Will he expand further on the recent announcement of the wave 2 test beds project and how it could deliver better outcomes for my residents down in Cornwall?

The tech test beds programme is about ensuring that we have units around the country that will support local collaborations between the NHS, tech companies and academia to harness new technologies right across the land, including—and no doubt—in Cornwall.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has so far declined to recommend the new drug Spinraza, despite its ability to transform the lives of patients such as my young constituent Matilda Jamieson, who suffers from type 3 spinal muscular atrophy. As NICE meets today to finalise the guidance, will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will work with the manufacturers, NHS England and NICE to ensure that patients such as Matilda can benefit from that drug?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for making that case so powerfully. We work very closely with NICE, which is rightly the objective decision maker that makes recommendations for Ministers to follow about what drugs should and should not be accessed through the NHS. He makes the case very strongly.

This question is about innovative technology in the health service. What is the Secretary of State saying today to scientists? For example, 97% of people from the Francis Crick Institute say that our science and our bioscience are in danger because of Brexit. What is he going to do about technology that is suitable for the health service?

The scientists, like me, want a Brexit that is based on a good deal for the UK, and that is what we are seeking to deliver. In any case, we have put more money into the science budget than ever before, so no matter what the outcome of the negotiations, there will be more support for science in Britain.

One of the innovative technologies is the new production and distribution system for flu jabs for the over-65s. Is the Secretary of State aware that this technology is breaking down? In my constituency and elsewhere, there are doctors and pharmacists who simply cannot get hold of stocks, which leads to potential pressures in hospitals. Will the Secretary of State investigate and take action if necessary?

Having a flu jab is incredibly important, and I hope that Members on both sides of the House have taken the opportunity to do so, including the right hon. Gentleman, with whom I enjoyed working for many years. We have a phased roll-out of the flu jab, making sure that we get the best flu jab most appropriately to the people who need it most, and of course we keep that under review.

Digital health tools, including decision-support software, have a great potential to increase the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of care for patients, and nowhere is that more important than in reducing antimicrobial resistance. Will my right hon. Friend respond to the points that we on the Health and Social Care Committee make in our report about the variation in roll-out, which is wholly unacceptable, and what measures will he take to make sure that it is clear where the responsibility for this lies?

I pay tribute to the Select Committee for the report on AMR that was published yesterday. Of course, digital tools such as the one that my hon. Friend mentions are important in making sure that we make the best use of antibiotics and counter antimicrobial resistance as much as possible.

If we have a “technological revolution”, in the words of the Secretary of State, surely that depends on capital investment, but that has been cut by £1 billion. For example, we have the lowest numbers of CT and MRI scanners on average in the OECD, hospitals are reliant on 1,700 pieces of out-of-date equipment, and the hospital repair bill now stands at £6 billion. If austerity has ended, can he tell us when this maintenance backlog will be cleared?

Unlike with the failed national programme for IT, we are delivering modern technology in the national health service. That is underpinned by a record commitment of £20 billion extra for the NHS over the next five years, accompanied by a long-term plan that will show how we will support the NHS and make sure that it is guaranteed to be there for the long term.

But I asked the Secretary of State about capital budgets, not revenue budgets.

Innovative technology can play a role in prevention, but so do public health budgets. With health inequalities widening, infant mortality rising in the most deprived parts of the population, rates of smoking in pregnancy remaining higher than the EU average and child obesity levels getting worse, will the Secretary of State commit, alongside an investment in technology, to reversing the £700 million of cuts to public health, or is the reality that his promises on prevention are entirely hollow?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has it slightly muddled up, because technology does involve capital investment, but it also includes revenue investment to ensure that the service element of any technology can continue to be delivered. Maybe he should have another look at how technology is delivered these days. Alongside the capital budget, we have record spending on the NHS to ensure that it is there for the long term. Of course public health is an important element of that, and there has been £16 billion for public health over this spending review period because it really matters.