Working together: NHS and pharma in diabetes

Neil MacDonald NHS and pharma in diabetes

Neil MacDonald, Area Healthcare Lead for MSD in North and East Scotland, on the Pf Award-winning real time data-led joint working project involving the Scottish Ambulance Service which is improving patient care for people with diabetes in Scotland.

As an Area Healthcare Lead for MSD in North and East Scotland my day-to-day role involves market access, patient/population access and project work with the NHS and other partners in the healthcare sector.

I have a biochemistry background but I found that working in a lab wasn’t for me, so I looked for a role that would provide a challenge but also make a difference. Since joining the industry I’ve worked in a number of roles and travelled all over the world meeting some amazing people whilst helping to improve patients’ health and wellbeing.

“The project will ultimately save lives and now it’s been recognised as the best in the pharmaceutical industry in 2019 by the Pf Awards”

Supportive culture

I really enjoyed working for both of my previous employers; however in my last role before joining MSD it felt like I was coming to the end of my journey with that company. When the MSD role became available it seemed right to apply for it as I’d been a quiet admirer of MSD for a long time because of their reputation within the industry which starts with their people.

I am now in my third year with MSD and I’ve learned and grown a lot. They have a positive, non-hierarchical culture which expects a lot but also is very supportive and key for me is that there are people and forums to take forward ideas that can be discussed and shaped. The SAS-HYPO-FIFE project was defined during this process.

The project

The idea for the project came from an MSD project in the South of England which focused on upskilling paramedics, whereas SAS-HYPO-FIFE has the addition of having a real time data feed from attending paramedics to the Fife Diabetes Centre which is the first time that this has happened in Scotland. The patients experiencing a hypoglycaemic event and requiring an ambulance were then followed up by the nurse team at the Fife Diabetes Centre.

Working together

The paramedic training was based on a questionnaire to establish each paramedic’s needs and gaps in knowledge in relation to managing hypoglycaemic events. The training was then delivered to identified station leaders at each of the ambulance stations within Fife by NHS Fife’s Lead Diabetes Specialist Nurse.

The project has had the following main outcomes – patients have reported via the Fife Diabetes Centre that they have never had such a comprehensive service to help with their diabetes; there has been around a 40% reduction in ambulance callouts for hypoglycaemic events (2018 v 2017) and a 40% reduction in ambulance conveyances to A&E (2018 v 2017) which means that there are more ambulances available for all patients in Fife and that there is less pressure on A&E. When this is costed out it represents a £230k saving (2018 v 2017) and the project will be rolled out across all the health boards in Scotland. As a project group we all worked closely to deliver the project.

Pf Award-winning work

When my name was called out at the Pf Awards I was shocked and incredibly proud all at once. The conversation was flowing well, I had taken my tie off and was looking forward to the rest of the evening when my name was announced. Then on the long walk up to the stage it dawned on me – I thought, “We’ve actually won – the team has won” (throughout the PF Award process I felt I was there to represent the team involved with the project). It felt fantastic, as the project will ultimately save lives and now it’s been recognised as the best in the pharmaceutical industry in 2019.

It was great to represent the group at the Pf Awards, and even better that the Pf Awards committee has also given a trophy to each of the partners.

The future

My colleagues were very supportive of the project and delighted when we won. If anything, it has had such a positive impact not only with MSD but also with our partners – we all want to do more of this collaborative working where we put the patient at the heart of what we do.

Our work does not stop now; we want to keep this momentum going and continue to identify further opportunities to work with our partners in the healthcare sector – none of us can do this alone. I would also like to bring another project to the Pf Awards in 2020!

Neil MacDonald is Area Healthcare Lead for MSD in North and East Scotland.

Go to