MedTech “Could” Save NHS Equivalent Cost of 20,000 Nurses

From implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICD) to sepsis screening of chronic wounds, a new report highlights potential cost savings through adoption of just eight MedTech solutions.


The new report is called ‘Keeping Britain Working – How medical technology can help reduce the cost of ill health to the UK economy.’

Responsible for all this work is The Medical Technology Group (MTG), a coalition of patient groups, research charities and medical device manufacturers working to make medical technologies available to everyone who needs them.

Uptake of medical technology in the UK is not as good as it should be, given its great potential to provide value for money to the NHS, patients and taxpayers. The MTG believes that patients and clinicians need better information about medical technologies so that they can make informed choices about their medical care.

The report points out that £476 million in savings could be generated from the use of just eight exemplary technologies, resulting from reduced long-term health costs and benefit payments. The argument goes that if benefit money was put back into the NHS it would pay for 20,000 nurses or 10.5 million GP visits.

Examples of these “wonder technologies” include coronary angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI) which saves the UK economy over £120 million per year and returns 32,000 people to the workplace.

The “calcs” are indeed interesting. Almost 100,000 (96,143) PCI procedures were carried out in 2015, with 36% in people of working age (under 60 years old). As 93% of patients in employment return to the workplace after a PCI, this means that 32,456 patients became economically active again. When multiplied by the cost of Jobseeker’s Allowance (£3,801 per year), the savings in benefits alone are totted up at £123.3 million per year. This is replicated every year for the rest of the patients’ working lives.

PCI is just one of the eight areas highlighted in the report to illustrate the value that medical technology delivers and its potential to help the NHS balance its books. The study examined data for hip replacements; implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs); insulin pumps; diagnostics, including sepsis; fibroid embolisation; pain management; wound care; and the aforementioned coronary angioplasty.

The MTG’s report builds on data from a study by the Work Foundation in 2011. The research concluded that the UK economy saved £90 million per year by using three medical technologies: hip replacements; insulin pumps; and ICDs.

  • Other findings from the MTG’s 2017 report include:
  • 18,500 people are currently in work thanks to hip replacements, saving the UK economy £70 million per year.
  • £3 million per year is saved by patients returning to work with an ICD. If the rate of implants in the UK were equivalent to the European average, the saving would increase to £4.3 million.
  • Insulin pumps save the UK economy £13.8 million every year by enabling people with diabetes to manage their condition more effectively and give them the freedom to work and lead active lives.
  • Giving greater access to fibroid embolisation, which can avoid a more invasive and traumatic hysterectomy, could deliver £76 million per year in savings.
  • 1,000 people could return to work with a Spinal Cord Stimulator, to help them manage chronic pain, delivering annual savings of £3.8 million.
  • Better management of chronic wounds can help patients and deliver £25.3 million in savings per year.
  • £160 million of savings could be achieved and 11,000 lives saved by using rapid diagnosis to screen patients with suspected sepsis.

MTG comments

Barbara Harpham, Chair of the Medical Technology Group, said, “Medical technology has an enormous impact, both in terms of the quality of life that it offers patients and in the cost savings to the health service and the wider economy. Very often a single procedure can get a patient back to work or caring for their family and can instantly eliminate thousands of pounds in longer term treatment or unplanned admissions. In fact, we have not yet tapped into the full potential of all the medical technology currently available.

She added: “The trouble is that the upfront cost of medical technology often means patient access is being limited and cheaper short-term solutions being chosen; in other words, a false economy.

“With the NHS budget under increasing pressure, it’s time we rethink the approach to rationing medical treatments that gives people back their lives. It may look good on paper in this budget year, but doesn’t benefit patients and costs the health service more in the long run.”

How can NHS prevent “innovation drag”

The Medical Technology Group is calling for a debate on the approach to the uptake and use of medical technology, and that the NHS:

  • Considers all the evidence, acknowledging the wider societal benefits of medical technology and the value of returning patients to work and living independently;
  • Communicates the benefits, increasing patient awareness and choice and aligning clinical practice with the benefits of technologies recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE);
  • Seizes the opportunities, such as including formal reviews of technology in national standards and guidance, and rewarding long-term decision-making to improve health outcomes, and instilling long-term incentives to secure the recommended uptake.

Source: Medical Technology Group

Full report here

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