NHS red tape slows innovation, health techs say

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Attendees at the Talking Tech roundtable

NHS procurement procedures and the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) were heavily criticised at a roundtable on health tech.

The bureaucratic requirements for delivering products to the NHS are so onerous that many health techs launch their products abroad to earn revenues before trying to supply the NHS, several health tech leaders said.

The primary problem with the DTAC, launched by NHSX in 2021, was that it was a self-assessment guideline adopted as a requirement by NHS regions, said Thomas Porteus, managing director of Iatro, which provides digital platforms for primary care.Access2Funding logo

“DTAC as a list of things to point at, to make sure you’re meeting everything, brilliant. It does its job,” Porteus said. “As a tick box before you get on a framework, as an assessed standard – which it was never designed to be – it’s awful. It holds people back.

“The regions have tried to use it for something it was not intended for. It was meant to be a guide.”

It takes around three months to complete a DTAC assessment, said Kate Lodge, partnership director of Leeds Academic Health Partnership.

And firms needed to complete one for each customer, with each submission to be assessed separately, another health tech leader pointed out.

Amy Pierechod, a partner at Gordons, noted procurement was also a problem.

Chris Yates, chief executive of Abingdon Health, which makes lateral flow tests, said, “There are lots of problems around NHS procurement. You may have the clinicians on board, but it’s a whole different argument to get through NHS procurement. And so a lot of people go abroad because there’s a less resistant path to doing that. And I think that’s a great shame.”

Bryn Sage, chief executive of InHealthCare, agreed. “More than once we’ve been advised to ignore the NHS and get out products out in the US or Europe and come back to the NHS when we’re more mature.”

Chris Archer, of Armstrong Watson, suggested the NHS should be prepared to take more risks – a position supported by Porteus, who pointed out that non-clinical areas such as administration were cumbersome and adopting digital methods would improve efficiency without impacting patient safety.

The roundtable was sponsored by Access2Funding and held at TheBusinessDesk’s offices in Leeds. It forms part of TheBusinessDesk.com’s Talking Tech series, sponsored by Access2Funding, Gordons, Armstrong Watson and Sentio.

The next Talking Tech roundtable will look at the use of technology in recruitment, training and working from anywhere.