United Kingdom Report

A changing landscape


Kevin Kiely, Founder & Managing Director of Medilink in Yorkshire, and International Executive for Medilink UK, outlines the changes that are taking place to modernise the United Kingdom’s Life Science sector.

The UK Life Science sector has seen substantial change over the past 12 months, driven by radical new government policies, which place innovation and early technology adoption at the heart of healthcare delivery in the UK.

The global drivers for change are well reported – the aging demographic, growth in long term chronic disease, enhanced patient expectations linked to rapid advances in technology, expansion of healthcare services in emerging markets, and of course, the need to contain costs at a time when global economies are under pressure.

The UK government signalled its commitment to ensure that the UK’s Life Science sector remained one of the strongest and fastest growing in the world, with the simultaneous launch of three major strategies in December 2011: the Prime Minister’s Life Science Prospectus, ‘Investing in UK Health and Life Sciences’; the NHS Chief Executive’s ‘Innovation, Health and Wealth’ strategy; and the joint Business, Innovation and Skills Department and Department of Health’s ‘Strategy for Life Sciences’.

The main thrust of the initiatives announced, were to open up business and universities to more collaboration, to invest in the best UK ideas at an early stage, to tear down regulatory barriers, and central to the strategies, to open up the National Health Service (NHS) to new innovations and new clinical trials. This is intended to put clinical research at the heart of innovation in the NHS and to radically accelerate the adoption and spread of technological innovation across NHS organisations, to secure early patient benefit.

Healthcare delivery

One early initiative within the Innovation, Health & Wealth Strategy is the creation of Academic Health Science Network (AHSNs) which will for the first time align education, clinical research, informatics, training and healthcare delivery, with a major focus on the rapid adoption and spread of new technology innovation into the NHS, to drive radical service transformation.

There will be about 15 to 17 AHSNs created across the UK through NHS hospital and NHS community organisations covering approximately five million people, each coming together in a formal partnership, with their own governance structure, to accelerate innovation adoption. Effective partnership with the business community will be key to the success of AHSNs and regional Medilinks will provide an important conduit for business engagement. Formal proposals / business cases for the creation of AHSNs have been submitted to government and the first phase of AHSNs will go live in April 2013.

Primary care

This development takes place against a backdrop of the UK Government’s White Paper, ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’ which outlined radical reform to the way healthcare is delivered in the UK; one of the central principles being that communitybased General Practitioners (GPs) will take responsibility for budgets and commissioning (through Clinical Commissioning Groups - CCGs).

400 GP consortia drawn from some 35,000 GPs will assume commissioning responsibility from the Strategic Health Authorities and 152 Primary Care Trusts which are being disbanded. This is being overseen by an independent NHS Commissioning Board, which will review progress regarding health outcomes and allocation of NHS resources. This new CCG led structure will be fully implemented by April 2013.

Another major drive to place more emphasis on primary care (care in the community) can be seen in the large scale adoption of telehealth and telecare in the UK. This recognises the fact that, care for the elderly and those with chronic deceases contributes to an ever-increasing proportion of the national health budget. Statistics also confirm that people overwhelmingly prefer homebased care to repeat hospital visits, intermittent hospital stays, or long-term residence in a care home.

This change in emphasis also recognises the development of new technologies which support preventative therapies, early diagnosis, self-management and home treatment, all of which lead to the patients’ health and wellbeing through increased independence and control.

World leading trial

The results of the world’s largest randomised control trial of telehealth technology, set up by the Department of Health in the UK (the Whole Systems Demonstrator Programme), which were published in December 2011, showed that at least three million people in the UK with long-term conditions and/or social care needs, could benefit from the roll-out of telehealth and telecare across the NHS and Social Care. This of course, will also reduce the burden on acute hospitals and increase the cost effectiveness of care.

Medilink UK, together with the UKs leading trade associations, signed a formal Concordat with the UK’s Department of Health earlier this year to work together to accelerate adoption of tele-health and telecare by the NHS, as part of its 3 Million Lives’ initiative. The UK’s Technology Strategy Board has committed £18 million (about US$29 million) over four years to delivering assistive living, at scale, across the UK.

The Technology Strategy Board is responsible for achieving economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. It funds a number of Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs), such as the Health Tech and Medicines KTN, which is dedicated to accelerating innovation and technology exploitation in the Life Science Industry.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is an important vehicle for government investment in innovation and it joined with the Medical Research Council in December 2011 (as part of the UK Strategy for Life Sciences referred too earlier) in launching a new £180 million programme, the BioMed Catalyst programme, to encourage collaboration and provide grant funding for innovative small companies and academics to develop solutions to healthcare challenges.

At the time of writing, the first awards under the BioMed Catalyst programme had been announced - £7.4 m was awarded to 150 pilot projects led by universities and £2.5m was awarded to assist eighteen small companies to explore, evaluate and validate commercial potential for early stage scientific ideas.

The UK government is also investing in major priority areas such as ‘stratified (personalised) medicine’ with £200m committed to innovative technological research and development on topics such as improved tumour profiling and treatment of cancer, accelerating the identification, validation and adoption of biomarkers, and in the uptake of medicine and companion diagnostics in the NHS. Other priority areas include assistive technologies, regenerative medicine, cell & novel therapies.

In support of technology innovation the UK has positioned itself as one of the leading countries in the world for clinical trials, with 20% of all clinical trials conducted in Europe taking place in the UK. It enjoys unrivalled levels of patient participation, with 12% of all UK cancer patients for example, participating in clinical trials. This reflects the significant investment by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and its National Office of Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) in streamlining and simplifying the process for clinical trials in the UK, resulting in quicker access to investigators and recruitment of patients.

Another cornerstone to the UK government’s growth strategy has been international trade and investment, building on the UK’s reputation for being a strong trading nation – exports contribute significantly to the UK’s economy, accounting for nearly 30% of GDP. The government’s international agency, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), has recently restructured to maximise its impact and considerable attention is being given to developing partnerships with major global economies.


Working in partnership with UKTI, Medilink has been developing links with the Gulf States for a number of years, where there has been heavy and sustained investment in health delivery and management systems. Medilink continues to reach out to potential academic, clinical and industrial collaborators from the Middle East, to partner in development opportunities.

Recognising the importance of international connectivity, Medilink has continued to build strategic relationships with key overseas organisations, the most notable being with CAMDI in China and ABIMO in Brazil, the largest health technology trade associations in these respective growth markets. Medilink is championing new market entry approaches to emerging markets, focusing on partnerships e.g. joint ventures, technology licensing, collaborative R&D, and contract manufacturing.

A new organisation, NHS Global has recently been created, that works in partnership with government departments, including UKTI, to coordinate the UK’s healthcare offering, delivering healthcare solutions to international governments and organisations. It also provides a mechanism for new innovations developed in the NHS to be widely accepted in countries across the world.

The UK faces the same challenges, of containing the rising costs of healthcare delivery whilst meeting increased expectations of patients (the perennial problem of more for less), as other countries across the world. It is responding by putting strategies in place which; give greater emphasis on early diagnosis and prevention, nurture new collaborations and partnerships, provide for investment in technologies of the future, and crucially to place clinical research, innovation and early technology adoption at the heart of its National Health Service (NHS) to drive improved health and wealth.



Royal Brompton Hospital’s Lung Laser theatre receives international recognition

After more than two years of research, training and preparation, Royal Brompton Hospital opened its new specialist ‘Lung Laser’ theatre, which incorporates the latest technology in lung surgery and the first surgical laser of its kind in the UK. It uses a special wavelength laser beam to remove tumours from patients’ lungs, with minimal damage to neighbouring healthy lung tissue. Middle East Health reports.

The lung laser can be used in tumours of all kinds, including colonic cancers and sarcomas, enabling surgeons to perform complicated lung surgery with greater benefits for patients, by:

- Targeting and removing individual tumours, significantly improving the patient’s chances of survival;

- Enabling the eradication of deep-seated and multiple tumours without the need to remove a major section of the lung, preserving lung function and preventing post-operative breathlessness, which improves the patient’s quality of life;

- Removing multiple tumours faster, therefore reducing the time that the patient spends under a general anaesthetic;

- Eradicating cancer tissue while at the same time sealing surrounding lung tissue, reducing the risk of internal bleeding or air leak from the lung, which can lead to a prolonged postoperative stay.

George Ladas, senior consultant thoracic surgeon at Royal Brompton Hospital, who is leading the project, said: “We perform some of the most complex lung surgery in the country. The lung laser system allows us to significantly improve the quality of care we offer to our patients and also improve their quality of life after surgery.”

Before the lung laser was introduced at Royal Brompton Hospital the operating method was slower, involving painstakingly cutting away the tumour while, at the same time, sealing the surrounding tissue to prevent bleeding and infection.

The laser makes the operation much quicker which means patients are under general anaesthetic for about half the time, on average two to three hours, and chest drains are removed much faster with patients discharged sooner.

Ladas has already performed more than 65 lung laser procedures, many of these in patients who were previously declared inoperable in the UK and abroad, with excellent results leading to international recognition.

Video-assisted (VATS) lung resection

A groundbreaking surgical technique offered at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals means that some lung cancer patients are experiencing a quicker recovery than usual after tumours are removed. The new keyhole surgery – called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) – involves a series of small cuts, rather than opening the chest and pulling the ribcage apart, and uses a tiny camera to help surgeons locate and identify the tumour.

VATS surgery can now be used as a suitable alternative to the more traditional open chest surgery for around one in 10 adult patients. It has been shown that patients who undergo VATS surgery experience less pain and have a shorter hospital stay after their operation. Dr Simon Jordan, consultant thoracic surgeon at Royal Brompton Hospital, explains: “More and more we are impressed by the speed of recovery and how much better the recovery can be with this operation.”

Today, operations for lung cancer requiring removal of a lobe of lung or even of the entire lung can be performed this way and VATS is regularly performed for secondary tumours that have spread to the lungs from other cancers. Unfortunately, many patients with cancers affecting the chest can develop fluid around the lung which makes the patient short of breath, but this fluid can be easily drained by VATS and chemical agents such as Talc or Iodine instilled into the chest between the lung and the chest wall causing the lung to ‘stick’ to the lining of the inside of the chest and preventing the further re-accumulation of fluid, therefore allowing patients to breath more easily.

However, VATS surgery is not just for cancer or suspected cancer, and most patients with recurrent pneumothorax (collapsed lung) or emphysema can have this treated by VATS, significantly reducing the chances of recurrence of this problem.

- The Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals’ private patients’ centre is worldrenowned for heart and lung disease care. Located in Chelsea, in central London, every private patient can be confident that they will have access to the most comprehensive range of advanced surgical, medical, intensive care and diagnostic facilities that are only available from a large, specialist hospital. Our Arabic Liaison Officers provide bespoke services in line with your cultural, religious and language needs.

For any enquiries or information, please contact us on:
Web: www.rbht.nhs.uk/private-patients
Email: privatepatients@rbht.nhs.uk
Tel: +44 (0)20 7351 8830

 Date of upload: 20th Nov 2012


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