The government has launched the UK’s first medical technology strategy, which it says will improve choice of and access to appliances dispensed by community pharmacy.

The strategy includes proposals to streamline the way that medical technology - which is covered by Part IX of the Drug Tariff and covers items like wound care, incontinence belts, ostomy bags and blood glucose testing strips - is supplied in the community, as well as to better align processes in primary and secondary care.

Building on lessons learned during the pandemic, the strategy aims to strengthen the resilience of supply chains in the case of market shocks, as well as supporting the interoperability of items and components.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the proposals would ‘better reflect today’s operational environment, and to deliver better outcomes for patients and the taxpayer’.

In particular, it has suggested increased collection of data and information about medtech in the community, to provide the basis for new comparison tools that it said would help patients, healthcare professionals and purchasers make better purchasing decisions, in line with its vision of ‘the right product, in the right place, for the right price’.

‘While the current system is based on choice, it is not always easy for patients, healthcare professionals, or purchasers to exercise this choice in practice. We intend to support choice through making it easier to compare, contrast and select the most appropriate products,’ the strategy reads.

A consultation will be held this summer on changes including modernising and rationalising Part IX of the Drug Tariff and streamlining processes to make it faster to access items.

Systems across primary and secondary care could also become better aligned, giving patients more joined-up access to products in hospital and in the community. There will also be a focus on improving the market for interchangeable devices.

New commercial and service models, such as off-prescription routes in the community, could be also embraced. DHSC sad that ‘since its inception, a variety of new approaches have been developed that today work in parallel to the Part IX system. We need to maximise the opportunity these provide while maximising transparency and ensuring quality’.

DHSC said that these actions would help increase efficiency in systems, enable better decisions across the NHS, reduce variations in local services and support patients and clinicians to make better choices about the products available to them to treat and manage their conditions.

A spokesperson for the department told The Pharmacist: ‘Medtech is the first ever government medical technology strategy and will ensure patients can access safe, effective and innovative equipment and medical advice.

‘It will also help cut the Covid backlog, while building resilient supply chains to ensure the UK is prepared for future pandemics.’

The medtech strategy aims to reduce health disparities by improving access to medical technology across primary and secondary care and increasing the resilience of supply chains.

‘Effective use of medtech will be critical in moving forwards from the pandemic, supporting the elective recovery plan by reducing diagnostic bottlenecks and waiting lists, and by delivering new and improved ways to treat and support patients,’ said Will Quince, Minister for Health and Secondary Care, in a foreword to the strategy.

He added that the strategy will help the NHS meet its Net Zero targets and increase the proportion of products that can be decontaminated and reused or remanufactured.

It also aims to reduce the cost of procuring appliances as well as contributing to the UK economy by attracting science and technology businesses – encouraging ‘ambitious, innovative research and turn innovation into real benefits for society, helping secure the position of the UK as a global science superpower’, said Mr Quince.

Last week, DHSC confirmed that that the Dexcom One Transmitter will be added to Part IXA of the March 2023 Drug Tariff, rather than patients being able to obtain it for free from pharmacies without a prescription.