Knowledge gap will hinder consortia's use of innovation

A lack of technical expertise in GP consortia may hamper the adoption of technological innovations in the NHS, experts have warned.

PCTs had failed to 'ask the right questions' when negotiating contracts for new technologies, speakers at last week’s Healthcare Innovation Expo in London said.

Henry Potts, senior lecturer on health infomatics at University College London, said such failings stemmed from a lack of technical knowledge at PCT level.

He warned that the ability to adopt new technologies may worsen as the creation of GP consortia breaks the NHS down into smaller local units.

Different PCTs had tended to focus on particular aspects of a technology they were looking to adopt, Mr Potts claimed. Some had 'obsessed' on particular aspects, such as on patient safety, cost or clinical outcomes, rather than asking a full set of 'correct' questions.

This had led to disparate and limited, regional attempts to adopt new technologies in the NHS, he said.

He warned that without assistance, consortia could follow the same path: 'GP consortia will not have the technical expertise when seeking to adopt technology,' he said.

'What will the support be when [consortia are] trying to adopt this technology? How will they ensure value for money?'

Mr Potts suggested one solution was for consortia to work in partnerships across regions when evaluating technologies or negotiating contracts. Such an approach could also save money through economies of scale, he said.

Speakers at the event called for a collaboration of NHS organisations to bring the latest medical technology into the NHS.

NICE, the NHS National Innovation Centre and Monitor must work together to produce national governance plans to allow faster adoption of these new technologies, they said.

They added that current NICE appraisal of new technology was 'too slow' and could not keep pace with modern developments. This has led to only limited regional pilots of technology rather than national roll-outs, they said.

Stephen Robinson

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