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NHS 'must boost use of technology' or risk falling behind

The NHS is falling behind other European health services in the uptake of life-saving technologies, according to a report by the Medical Technology Group, a coalition of UK industry groups and patient charities.

Barbara Harpham, Medical Technology Group chairman and director of Heart Research UK, said: “Slashing budgets is counterproductive as modern technologies help thousands of people stay in work and out of hospital.

“We already lag behind much of Europe, with problems like hospitals denying patients NICE-approved technologies because they lack the facilities or staff to support their use,” she said.

The report, Medical Technology – can we afford to miss out?, says Germany uses three times as many implantable cardioverter-defibrillators as the UK, and that just 4 per cent of UK diabetes patients have access to an insulin pump, compared with 35 per cent in the US.

It says patients should be legally entitled to technologies recommended by NICE, and be told which providers use the latest technologies to help them make a more informed choice of provider.

Responding to the report, shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien said: “We should be proud of Britain’s strength in medical technology.

“I want to build a health service where procurement delivers the best possible patient and financial outcomes, rather than focusing on short term targets, and where specialist equipment is not treated as just a commodity, but as a value for money use of public money,” he said.  

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “Up until now, the NHS has been slow to recognise the value of technology. This has to change if we are to maximise the effective use of resources for the benefit of patients.”

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