In The Teeth Of A Crisis, How To Grab The Attention Of NHS Decision Makers

It’s always tough for Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies when they feel as though they’re not getting any traction with NHS buyers. It’s a common problem. It’s an interesting issue and it’s one I’ve seen a lot of lately.

It’s particularly frustrating for the industry when they offer the lowest cost drug, device or piece of technology on the market – even for free – and still can’t get a bite. So what can you do?

Workload pressures don’t leave any time for your pitch

First of all, it’s worth bearing in mind the impact a punishing workload can have on decision-makers. You’re going to need to go in there with a very persuasive argument to penetrate the sheer intensity of the horrors they’re currently facing every day in terms of the amount of work they have to do.

If you’re approaching general practice or the Primary Care Networks (PCNs), the budget doesn’t belong to them. So any savings you’re proposing to make go straight to the commissioner.

Therefore, the GPs and PCNs are naturally going to say: “Why should I make this change? I’m completely over-run with patient demand and appointments and you want me to change from product A to product B because it will save my commissioner money? That transition process is just unfunded work. You’re asking me to stop doing work I’m paid for to do a load of work I’m not paid for and I don’t ultimately benefit from the saving.”

Fundamentally, that’s what drives this issue.

If people view the efficiencies Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies can offer as someone else’s problem to implement, then gaining traction will be difficult.

They could ask the commissioner to send in a team to implement the change. But when they have patients who are stable on treatment and they don’t want to risk destabilising those patients. So what happens? They reject the new drug or equipment. The very last thing they want right now is the risk of ploughing appointments, referrals and admissions back into the system.

Split the savings and everybody wins

If general practice and the networks were genuinely interested in working on a project brought to them by a Pharma company, a risk share is a potentially fantastic idea. As I wrote in my last blog, this is where PCNs do the work via general practice or a GP federation to deliver savings at no cost but split those savings 50/50 with the commissioner.

So in year one, the commissioner gets half the savings and the GPs and the practices trouser the other half. In year two, the commissioner gets all the savings but the practice at least feels like it has been engaged and has received an income for doing the work.

So from an industry perspective, developing your project around a risk-share approach is a great way to engage commissioners, GP practices, primary care networks (PCNs) and the GP federations.

The NHS doesn’t even have time to take your free stuff

Another complaint I regularly hear from companies is that they’ve offered the NHS a load of free near-patient testing and diagnostic equipment, help to run it and even support to get diagnostic test results interpreted and still practices have turned them down.

This again is linked to the fact they’re not being funded to deliver that work. To use your free equipment, you’re asking them to stop the work they’re paid to do in favour of work they’re not funded to do and that does not sit well with most GP practices.

Industry can argue that the equipment is good for the patients but if that is the case then it should be a properly commissioned service. If it’s really fantastic for the patient then a business case should be built for it so it is routinely offered and then the funding can be matched to that and the service can go live. It shouldn’t be done in a piecemeal way.

The concept of giving up paid work to do unpaid work is the bane of general practice life. One of the most common conversations I have is with GPs who are being offered projects they simply don’t have the time, funding or the capacity to work on.

I therefore caution against the ‘free equipment’ approach. But there are other ways in. The Pharma, Medtech or Device company could potentially invest in delivering a proof of concept that then might lead to a commissioned service. That’s not a bad route to showing the outcome you could deliver to a PCN or GP federation.

Equally, you might be able to build the case for commissioners to consider commissioning a service from general practice which is good for the patient.

Preserving general practice is the absolute number one priority

But the thing you must keep in mind is the best thing for the patient, is having sustainable general practice. I know from my own work supporting PCNs and GP Federations that there are many practices teetering on the brink right now because of the workforce crisis.

The issues are not primarily about driving up income. They are about increasing budgets to enable people to be employed (assuming we can find them because we still lack training places and people in those places coming through to fill the vacancies).

So it’s a really tough time at practice level. And from an industry perspective, what that means is your pitches have to be very carefully considered.

Because often, it’s the way that you pitch that derails you.

If a practice thinks you’re trying to give them a load of unfunded work to do, you won’t get through the door. Read my blog here on what your pitch needs to focus on if you want it to succeed.

If you need any help with how to package and present your pitch in a way that is going to align with current NHS priorities then give me a shout. I’m always happy to have an exploratory conversation.

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways we can help you. We’ve doubled revenue for our clients and can share these processes with you too.