• Devices and apps in six categories included in new effort to accelerate access to innovative treatments
  • Products will be included in a new “innovation and technology tariff” from April
  • NHS England says process will cut red tape and bring innovative products into the health system faster
  • Move welcomed by industry

A new drive to accelerate access to innovative treatments for the NHS via new tariffs will first focus on medical technology devices and apps in six categories, NHS England has announced.

The “innovation and technology tariff” will be added to the national tariff from April 2017. Products, provisionally selected but still required to go through further approvals, in six areas (see box), will make up the first wave of interventions included the tariff, NHS England said. The specific products have not been named.

Plans for the tariff were first announced in June, after which around 120 products were put through an assessment process.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said at the time he expected 10-15 products to be added to the national tariff system after an assessment, but more are expected to be approved in the future.

NHS England said the new tariff system was designed to “remove the need for multiple local price negotiations, and instead guarantee automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used, while… allowing NHS England to negotiate national ‘bulk buy’ price discounts”.

Under the model NHS England “will directly fund the costs of six of the selected innovations in 2017-18… It will expand the number of innovations covered by the tariff for future years, through a wider scheme that has been designed with industry, the NHS and the academic health science networks”, a statement said.

The six product categories

  • Guided mediolateral episiotomy scissors to minimise the risk of obstetric injury.
  • Arterial connecting systems to reduce bacterial contamination and the accidental administration of medication.
  • Pneumonia prevention systems which are designed to stop ventilator-associated pneumonia.
  • Web based applications for the self-management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Frozen microbiota transplantation for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection rates.
  • Prostatic urethral lift systems to treat lower urinary tract symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia as a day case.

The six products, which still face further commercial and regulatory checks, were selected from 119 applications after a clinical review and assessment process which, involved NHS England, NICE and the UCLPartners Academic Health Science Network.

NHS England said products and innovations that fit with these groups can be used by providers and examples of these themes can be found in part B of the national tariff consultation document, which sets how each innovation “should be reimbursed, for example as an exclusion or as part of tariff, and either a mandatory or non-mandatory price”.

The introduction of any innovation from this list should be agreed between the provider and commissioner prior to implementation, the statement said.

Mr Stevens added: “The NHS has a proud track record of world firsts in medical innovation but getting wide uptake has often been far too slow.

“Our new payment system brings clarity on fast track funding to get ground breaking new treatments and technologies to NHS patients. Many of them not only improve care but will save the NHS money too.”

The announcement follows the accelerated access review’s publication last week, which said up to four years could be cut off the time it takes to get some innovative interventions to patients.

British Healthcare Industries Association chief executive Peter Ellingworth said: “This welcome new approach from NHS England will help ensure a robust, accessible and effective scheme that provides timely patient access to a wide range of medical technologies. We look forward to working with NHS England to implement these changes – and helping to develop an expanded scheme for 2018-19.”