Readers ask NHS & DoH leaders their critical questions

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We gave our readers the opportunity to ask NHS England and Department of Health leaders their critical questions. 



Richard Cobourne, Medical Communications Consultant, Cobourne Limited:

Q: How do European Commission marketing authorisation decisions affect NHS prescribing decisions – or is NICE the authority?


Department of Health spokesperson: 

A: NHS prescribers may prescribe any drug that has received a marketing authorisation, subject to some national restrictions and local funding policies. NICE issues guidance to the NHS on whether licensed medicines represent a clinically and cost effective use of resources.

NHS England spokesperson: 

A: Granting marketing authorisations for biotechnology products falls under the authority of the European Medicines Agency, and the European Commission, within the European Union.



Sarah Pinch, Managing Director, Pinch Point Communications:

Q: Is the advertising ban on sugary foods going to help with the emerging diabetes and obesity problem?

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England:

A: This bold and welcome action will send a powerful signal, and incentivise soft drinks companies to act on the health consequences of their products. It is a major first step in what must be a comprehensive childhood obesity strategy that will help us shed pounds off our waistlines, and save pounds on future NHS costs.

While no child needs a daily dose of sugary fizzy water, sadly soft drinks are now our children’s largest single source of diabetes-inducing, teeth-rotting excess sugar. And since poorer children are twice as likely to be obese than better off children, these measures should also cut child health inequalities. Obesity now affects one in five children, causes one in five cancer deaths, and already costs the NHS £5 billion a year – so obesity is the new ‘smoking’. 


Dr Anne Connolly, GP and Chair of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum:

Q: How can the NHS improve access to psychological support, self-empowerment and self-care?

Department of Health spokesperson: 

A: For people living with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, having someone to talk to can be a real lifeline and help them manage their conditions.

Talking therapies make a real difference to many people with mental health problems – that’s why we introduced the first waiting times and standards. More than four million people have received treatment so far, and targets have been exceeded, with 90% being seen within six weeks  – but we are striving to improve further.


Simon Nicholson, Market Access Director, MSD:

Q: How does the NHS plan to scaleup commercial capabilities and how will this align with the new commercial director role at the DH?

Department of Health spokesperson: 

A: The new Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) will support the Department in its responsibilities for the overall PPRS regime and whatever arrangements may follow. As part of our development of commercial capability across the NHS we are creating a ‘Network of Professions’ to link up commercial teams across the healthcare system, and get them working together to provide a modern and efficient service. The CCO will oversee the work which, day-to-day, will be handled by the Department.


Siân Boisseau, Executive Director, Golin: 

Q: In recent years has the relationship between pharma and the NHS improved?

Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England:

A: There has always been a strong relationship, but July 2016 saw the introduction of the ABPI’s ‘Disclosure’ UK database, which is designed to promote transparency.

In response to this launch, an NHS England spokesperson said: “The ABPI publication is an important step forward, in terms of transparency, but is not yet the complete solution. Voluntary disclosure does not go far enough, and all companies should follow industry leaders in refusing to fund individuals who decline to be transparent about their payments.”


Graham Hawthorn, Managing Director, Chase: 

Q: What is the most successful initiative you have seen from the pharma industry in the past few years and why was it a success?

Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England:

A: The blossoming biosimilars sector is a growing success story. A biosimilar medicine is similar to another biological medicine, which is already licensed for use, and will not have any clinically meaningful differences from the originator, in terms of quality, safety and efficacy.

These biosimilar medicines are not considered generic equivalents to their originator biological medicine, because the two products are similar, but not identical.


Lydia Owen, Client Services Director, OSP Healthcare: 

Q: What is being done to ensure that innovative new medicines get to the patients that need them most?

Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England:

A: A lot of work is being carried out in this field. The Accelerated Access Review report – published last year – was commissioned by the government and led by an independent chair. The review aims to make the UK a world-leader in healthcare innovation, with an NHS that embraces the new drugs and technologies patients need, while supporting work with local areas to develop solutions to specific healthcare requirements.

Medicines optimisation, reducing unwarranted variation and increasing value through medicines optimisation are crucial elements of NHS RightCare’s innovation work.


Cara Bunce, Client Relationship Manager, Big Pink: 

Q: What opportunities will there be for pharma to work with the NHS, now and in the future?

Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England:

A: NHS England is committed to working with the pharmaceutical industry for the benefit of patients and the taxpayer. Working together within appropriate governance frameworks and policies, NHS England and industry can make a real difference to patients by utilising innovation.

It is also about ensuring products, developed by the industry, are used in the most effective way possible, through adopting the principles of medicines optimisation.


Deborah Evans, Pharmacist, Managing Director, Pharmacy Complete: 

Q: With all the challenges, in terms of managing demand in hospitals and GP surgeries, will community pharmacy be taken seriously in relieving these significant pressures?

Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England:

A: Absolutely – in September 2016 NHS England delivered its first report on enhancing the quality of care, and improving access to seven day pharmacy services, for patients in hospital.

‘Transformation of Seven Day Clinical Pharmacy Services in Acute Hospitals’ sets out a vision where hospital pharmacy services could operate more efficiently and safely, with 13 key recommendations of how clinical pharmacy services in hospitals can be strengthened. 

In October 2016, NHS England announced a £42m Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF). This will support community pharmacy to transform its services across the NHS, while developing new clinical services, working practices and digital platforms.


Malcolm Skingle, Director, Academic Liaison, GSK: 

Q: What opportunities are there for the NHS in post-Brexit Britain and what work is underway to ensure the NHS encourages investment in the UK?

Department of Health spokesperson: 

A: Ensuring patients have timely access to safe, effective medicines is, and always will be, a priority for this government. In fact, Brexit brings opportunities in this area, and we will be focussed on whether we can secure even faster access to the latest innovations for British patients.

The Government has separately shown its commitment to supporting the industry by commissioning the Accelerated Access Review, which suggests a number of ways we can make sure that innovative new treatments get to patients quicker.


John Pinching, Editor Pf Magazine

Q: How is technology and ‘digital’ impacting on the delivery of NHS services and how will it shape the modern health service?

Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England: 

A: The implementation of ePrescribing – the electronic prescription service – is complex, and an area in which expertise and specific tools are required; both of which NHSE continue to support.

ePrescribing is a key priority, as evidenced by its inclusion in the recent ‘Carter’ report, and it will be a vital part of local ‘digital road maps’. Any future funding is likely to be based on priorities identified within these.

The Independent Review of Community Pharmacy Clinical Services, which was commissioned by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer of England, stated that: “To unlock the full potential of community pharmacy requires greater digital maturity and interconnectivity – allowing pharmacy staff to share clinical information about patient care with clinical records held by other healthcare professionals.”

NHS England will consider these recommendations in due course.

Department of health spokesperson: 

A: Technology is at the heart of this government’s drive to make the NHS the safest and most transparent healthcare system in the world. Over the last five years we have invested around £5 billion in health research, leading to new life-saving treatments for cancer, and earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Through the National Institute for Health Research we continue to invest over £1bn per year for vaccine development, clinical trials, medical devices, DNA sequencing and new technologies.