• Darzi to chair Accelerated Access Collaborative panel that will choose which products NHS patients should get faster access to
  • Takes over from Sir Andrew Witty who resigned in March after taking on a new role as CEO of Optum
  • Government has missed its deadline to choose the first fast track products, but said it will happen “later this year”

Former health minister Lord Darzi has been appointed chair of a new innovation panel which will choose which “transformative” medical products should be fast tracked into the NHS.

He will chair the Accelerated Access Collaborative which will decide which products should go through a quicker NHS approval process. The government has said the Accelerated Access Pathway will make products available to patients on the NHS up to four years earlier than if they were subject to the usual approval timelines.

Both the AAC and AAP were set up in response to a review on improving patient access to breakthrough treatments – part of the government’s life sciences industrial strategy.

The resulting 2017 accelerated access report said that Lord Darzi’s role will be “accountable to ministers.”

The government has missed its planned deadline of selecting the first fast track products by April this year, in part because the previous AAC chair, Sir Andrew Witty, resigned in March after taking on a new role as CEO of Optum. The Department of Health and Social Care’s statement announcing Lord Darzi’s appointment said the AAP will be “launching later this year”.

The AAC panel will include representatives from NHS England, NHS Improvement, DHSC, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Academic Health Science Networks and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Patients, industry and clinicians will also be represented.

Although the criteria for gaining access to the fast track scheme has not been laid out, the government’s 2017 report said innovations must be “delivered at a price that industry and the NHS think is affordable and fair.” Innovations can include pharmaceutical, medical devices, diagnostic and digital products.

It also said that the AAC will be “responsible for measuring and evaluating the impact of [the] accelerated access programme on assessing the industry response to it”.

Lord Darzi is a former minister at the DHSC, chair of Imperial College Health Partners, and chairman and director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation.