As a result of Brexit, COVID-19 and the fast-moving digital revolution, there have been vast changes to the UK healthcare landscape, prompting NICE to develop their 5-year strategy with aims to promote innovative treatment development as well as anticipate and respond to the ongoing challenges surrounding global healthcare.
NICE has set out its plan using four key pillars designed to elicit incremental change within the UK healthcare system and provide patients with faster access to innovative medicines. The four pillars were developed by gaining insights from key opinion leaders across the globe.
The four pillars and NICE’s strategy
An expansion of NICE’s four pillars (shown below) are likely to be incremental in nature and represent the new strategic ambition to create an integrated, collaborative, and dynamic healthcare service. The pillars represent NICE’s ambition to speed up access to effective medicines through faster technology evaluations and dynamic treatment guidelines which are updated in real time, as well as place evidence at the heart of healthcare and decision making to improve patient outcomes.
Source: NICE 5 year strategy 2021-2026
To develop the plan, NICE sought recommendations from key opinion leaders around the globe to help identify significant changes expected over the next 5 years. Experts indicated the following:
- The rapid pace of innovation will continue, requiring faster technology appraisals which include the use of digital health and earlier engagement of NICE within the innovation pipeline
- An increased use of digital data and use of real-world-evidence which may allow NICE to begin using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate many processes such as healthcare guideline updates
- Implementation of integrated care systems and the removal of traditional barriers which NICE will utilise to bring together providers, commissioners and integrated health and social care in order to prevent and reduce health inequalities
- An increased collaboration driven by a need to optimise resources following budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NICE also hopes to organise care around the individual to ensure that the UK remains a destination of choice for the life sciences sector following its exit from the European Union
- There will be an increased focus on tackling health inequalities which was brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. NICE will prioritise efforts to target specific populations or conditions where there is the widest variation in practice or outcomes
- And finally, economic challenges will need to be addressed. NICE hope to optimise resources by supporting commissioners through clear direction on the technologies that are effective, provide good value for money and should be funded, and those that should not.
A vision for the future
NICE’s vision for the future is to be at the forefront of developing innovative ways to appraise technologies and generate world-leading value assessments which improve access for patients whilst also tackling the increased health inequalities brought about by the pandemic. Sharmila Nebhrajani, NICE chair summarised the objectives of the 5 year plan:
“This realignment includes a renewed determination to prioritise our work to reduce those health inequalities that have been highlighted during the pandemic, to work seamlessly across boundaries, to reduce bureaucracy, and to speed up access to the latest and most effective treatments.”
It will be interesting to see how the inevitable healthcare budget constraints will impact NICE’s plan over the next 5 years and whether these ambitious strategies will lead to a systemic change in the way the UK provides access to medicines.