Get A Grip On What The NHS Really Needs If You Want Your Sales Pitch To Succeed

Pharma, Appliance and MedTech companies often ask me how they can zoom in on NHS spending priorities. What should they focus on to give them the best chance of doing business with an NHS partner?

Well, the emphasis for 2023/24 is definitely outcomes.

The guidance from the NHS is much shorter than in previous years – about half the size of what we’ve come to expect – so there are fewer priorities outlined, and it is much less ‘top down’ than it has been.

As a result, there are fewer targets, and the guidance really pushes for a genuine partnership between the integrated care systems and NHS England with a much bigger emphasis on outcomes.

Anything that reduces workload is music to the ears of the NHS

The NHS 2022/23 priorities and operational planning guidance is far less prescriptive than it has been previously – it aims to empower integrated care systems to just get on and deliver. There’s quite a bit more flexible funding, giving decision makers the ability to pick and choose the local priorities they can focus on with the system partner.  

One of the big focuses from a Pharma perspective is prevention being better than the cure. There’s a big push on preventing unnecessary appointments, referrals and admissions and trying to encourage a narrative with the patients about accessing care through community pharmacy and using 111 as the initial point of contact.  

That’s an attempt to curb the ever-increasing demand on general practice, or worse, accident and emergency departments. They are literally drowning in workload, and they haven’t got the staff pool to meet the demand, so anything likely to be able to help with that situation is going to be welcomed. 

The three key priorities are an open door for Pharma

Industry also needs to keep in mind the three priorities that are right up front in the document:

·        The recovery of core services and productivity, which is going to be really challenging given the backdrop we’ve just talked about.

·        The return to a focus on delivering the key elements and ambitions that were included in the NHS long-term plan. A lot of that is the prevention agenda which featured heavily in the plan with very specific focuses on specific disease areas.

·        And the continued transformation away from clinical commissioning groups toward integrated care systems.

I firmly believe there’s a role for market access teams within the Pharma, MedTech and Appliance industry in all of that, particularly around helping them with productivity, definitely helping them deliver the prevention agenda and also working with that transformed NHS. There were 32 national objectives against those first two priorities, and they are broken down into 12 areas. You can read the whole document here.

In February, the NHS published its general access recovery plan to start ploughing through the waiting lists that stacked up during Covid. And we’re in the last year of the first five years of the Primary Care Network (PCN) Directed Enhanced Service (DES), so we know this year they’ll be negotiating the 2024-29 contract for the PCNs.

There’s also likely to be further engagement around access in the GP contract for 2024/25 – so plenty for industry to keep an eye on to see how things pan out.

The Pharma, Med Tech and Appliance Industry holds the key to solving NHS issues – you just have to show them how

There’s a long list in the document which gives a clear indication of how industry can carve out an essential role – including urgent and emergency care, community services, primary care, elective care, cancer, diagnostics, and maternity services. There’s also the overarching theme of the use of resources that offer up an opportunity for industry to become relevant to the solution.

In the long-term plan, there’s a focus on mental health, learning disabilities and people with autism, improving health and reducing inequality. Those priorities are already reflected in the PCN DES, and I fully expect to see that continuing. 

Workforce is the other big area in terms of investment.  

The NHS workforce plan is still to be published, and we really need this to have short, medium and long-term solutions. I’ve often highlighted that we can have all the plans and proposals we want, but if we don’t have a workforce plan on how it will be delivered, there is literally no delivery and it won’t fully mobilise.

Digital First also continues to be a focus, and finally, the requirement for a wider system working with the integrated care system partners is highlighted. 

Overall, I welcome the fact the guidance isn’t the usual 50 pages we would normally get and that there’s no surprises in there. So from a Pharma perspective, I would stick to my usual advice – focus on the problem you solve and don’t lead with the product. You can read one of my blogs on how to pitch to the NHS here

Go and talk to them about the real value you add in working with the NHS. Focus on how you can help them see a patient once or twice instead of seven or eight times, reducing the workforce burden and improving patient outcomes.

If you want help refining your pitch and giving yourself the maximum chance of being heard by the NHS decision makers, schedule a call, and I’ll be delighted to help.

Scott McKenzie supports pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms with workshops and coaching to increase revenue by getting products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. Scott has doubled revenue for his clients and can share these processes with you too. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways schedule a call today.