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PM’s tour of medtech innovation

   PRIME MINISTER GORDON Brown has witnessed the power of innovative healthcare technologies during a visit to Imperial College London.

The College’s Rector, former GSK Chairman Sir Richard Sykes, and Professor of Surgery and Parliamentary Under- Secretary for Health Lord Ara Darzi took the PM on a tour of the College’s newly-launched Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

During the tour, Brown took a particular interest in the virtual operating theatre used for cardiac microsurgery. The College’s Director of Medical Imaging, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, discussed the applications of robotic surgical devices, while Lord Darzi – a pioneer of minimallyinvasive surgery – demonstrated a virtual medical procedure.

Professor Yang said: “Minimal-access surgery reduces the impact trauma of an operation on patients, but it requires pinpoint accuracy and a very steady hand. Enabling the surgeon to operate via a robot represents the perfect marriage of human skill with technological advances in biomedical engineering.”

Sir Richard Sykes talked about the role that organisations like the IBE play in healthcare innovation: “Institutes like this, which see scientists and medics of many different specialisms working side by side, are where the major improvements in patient care and quality of life are being made.”

Smith & Nephew wins manufacturing award

THE ADVANCED WOUND MANAGEMENT DIVISION of Smith & Nephew has won the Manufacturer of the Year 2007 award, together with three other awards, presented at an awards ceremony in Coventry.

As well as the overall Manufacturer of the Year award, the winner of which is selected by the judges from the companies short-listed in all award categories, the Advanced Wound Management business also won the awards for World Class Manufacturing, Manufacturing Operations and Skills and Productivity.

The awards are given by The Manufacturer magazine to recognise world-class achievement in British manufacturing. The ceremony was hosted by Rupert Pennant-Rea, a celebrated economist, banker and businessman. The judging panel included representatives from industry, academia and journalism. Paul Adams, Senior Vice-President of Global Operations at Smith & Nephew, said: “These awards are testimony to the fact that we have now reached world-class benchmark standards in manufacturing.”

 Noel Waters, former Operations Director for the Advanced Wound Management division’s Hull site, said: “Winning this award stands as testament to and recognition at a national level of the transformation of our operations to world-class standards. I take enormous pride in what the workforce of the Hull plant have achieved.”

Exubera: the last gasp

   PFIZER’S DECISION to drop its inhaled dry powder form of insulin, Exubera, has impacted on the medtech companies that supply its drug delivery technology. Consort Medical (formerly known as Bespak) and its component supplier Clamason are both affected by the discontinuation of the inhaled drug.

Exubera was described by Pfizer as “a major medical breakthrough” in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and predicted to generate annual sales of more than $1.5 billion by 2010. However, dosing and side-effect problems affected the drug’s sales, and NICE’s decision not to grant Exubera a licence kept it from finding a UK market. In October, Pfizer announced it would cease production of the drug.

Consort Medical of Milton Keynes, which makes the inhaler (under its Bespak brand) for Exubera, has said it will lose £2 million as a result of this decision. Another medtech company affected is Clamason Industries Ltd of Kingswinford, which manufactures five precision components for the inhaler.

While Consort Medical remains a leading supplier of drug inhalers, this episode reflects the vulnerability of drug delivery technologies in a highly competitive pharmaceutical market.

Darzi report focuses on innovation

   A NEW HEALTH INNOVATION COUNCIL to accelerate the introduction of new medical technologies has been announced by Health Minister Lord Ara Darzi.

Lord Darzi, a practising surgeon, places strong emphasis on medtech innovation in his interim report on the forthcoming NHS review.

The new Health Innovation Council, to be chaired by Lord Darzi and drawn from the NHS, industry and academia, will tackle the variable uptake of innovation in the NHS and drive forward the cost-effective implementation of new medical technologies. Lord Darzi also promised a review of the NHS Connecting for Health programme of IT modernisation to ensure that it “delivers real clinical benefits”. This represents a step forward from the DH’s former resistance to calls for a review of the troubled programme.

The new Health Innovation Council, Lord Darzi said, will act as “the overarching guardian for innovation from discovery through to adoption, holding the Department of Health and the NHS to account for taking up innovation and helping overcome barriers to doing so.” John Wilkinson, Director General of the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), applauded these proposals: “The ABHI welcomes Lord Darzi’s recognition of the reluctance of the NHS to adopt new technologies, and his announcement of the establishment of a new Health Innovation Council to address this problem.

“The Association looks forward to learning more about how the medical technology industry in the UK can contribute to Lord Darzi’s continuing review, and participating in the work of the Health Innovation Council.”

Mobilis Group acquires Premier Sports Medicals Ltd finalist

THE MOBILIS GROUP OF HEALTHCARE companies has strengthened its position within the sports healthcare sector with the acquisition of Premier Sports Medicals Ltd.  Premier Sports Medicals (based in North London) has worked with leading football and rugby teams, supplying products and expert advice. Mobilis (based in Oldham) is a wide-ranging healthcare group with successful brands in the fields of physiotherapy, podiatry and orthotics, including Vulkan, Sorbothane and Neen.

Steve Simbler, MD of Premier, said: “We are very excited about working with Mobilis and the opportunity to develop our offer and increase our product portfolio. Our aim is for both companies to continue to offer the same high levels of service our customers expect, but with the added value of our combined skills, range and knowledge.”

Colin Webb, CEO of Mobilis, said: “This new partnership with Premier will bring genuine expertise to the group. Mobilis are looking forward to developing this expertise to benefit our valuable, professional customer base.”

For more information, visit www.mobilishealthcare.com.

NHS budget to rise by £20 billion

AN INCREASE IN THE NHS BUDGET from £90bn this year to £110bn by 2010–11 has been announced in the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The three-year settlement for the DH includes a £100m innovation fund to help the NHS develop and implement new medical technologies. The innovation fund will be controlled by a new Health Innovation Council (see above).

A total of £1.7bn extra funding is being committed to health research – the largest ever such increase. Extensive spending proposals for infection control include £130m to introduce MRSA screening for all patients.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said that this investment would enable the DH to realise the vision of the interim Darzi review. He added that “spreading new technologies and best practice across the NHS could potentially generate net cash-releasing savings of around £500m per year by 2010-11.”

Darling concluded: “Future technological developments need to be grasped to further improve the quality of life people are able to enjoy. After a decade focused on expansion and reform, the levers are now in place to lock in sustained productivity improvements to ensure further advances are delivered with value for money to the taxpayer.”

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