Your expert guide to convincing the NHS to work with you

For Pharma, MedTech and Appliance companies, winning an audience with the NHS has never been a more difficult task.

Finding ten minutes for you to pitch to them – let alone having the headspace to properly appreciate the benefits your drug, equipment or project might bring – is an extremely tall order when waiting lists are shattering records on a month-by-month basis.

I am often asked for advice and techniques to help industry get its foot in the door with the NHS – and what to do when you’re round the table – and my regular blog has repeatedly visited this area.

A dozen tips to help your pitch succeed

While the problems facing the NHS have never been so acutely felt as they are at the moment, the issues facing industry tend to come round again and again, and I have developed a list of tips and advice to deal with them:

Be aware of the NHS agenda –rising demands on our healthcare service have left the NHS with an unmanageable workload, the solution to which requires real innovation. Within your work, do you position your drug, device or appliance against this agenda?

Get your stakeholders on board – if people aren’t involved from the beginning, they are more likely to resist and obstruct change, even when the ideas are good. People recognise they are being sold something rather than being asked for their input from the start.

Understand your audience – each part of the country has Primary Care Networks and Integrated Care Boards at differing levels of maturity and business-readiness, and you need to do your homework and engage with the right people.

Avoid a race to the bottom – focus on cost-effectiveness and value for money within a pathway rather than simply the acquisition cost of the drug, device or appliance. Focus on the pathway outcomes to deliver real cost-effectiveness and value for money.

Innovation is key – work beyond your molecule, device or appliance and instead focus within a disease area to deliver innovative approaches that improve quality, reduce variety and deliver remarkable outcomes within the disease.

Never lead with the product – don’t start your pitch to the NHS with details of your product. Why? Because your prospects are extremely time-strapped and need to first understand which of their many challenges your product proposes to solve for them.

Improve your communication – prospective clients don’t have time to wade through lengthy emails. They switch off and move on. Think about it. When we’re already busy, anything that isn’t a priority and feels too ‘hard’ to deal with just gets pushed to one side.

Focus on relationships – by focusing on value rather than on relationships we miss out on real opportunities and reduce the likelihood of success. By taking a more focused approach, you’re far more likely to get a greater return on the time you invest in the process.

Show them you’re serious – by framing the problem upfront, we’ve agitated it in the decision maker’s mind, so they’re forced to confront it and deal with it. And that’s where you step in to close the deal. Simply propose the solution to their problems.

Start small, then build – never be afraid to start a pathway project with one practice and/or one network. This allows you to gather data, tweak where necessary and scale up in the most effective way.

Get to grips with place – every area works in a slightly different way because local population needs will differ from one place to the next. What is common is a focus on transforming local services and collectively tackling inequalities head on.

Focus on outcomes – the most expensive product or drug is the one that doesn’t work or doesn’t get the patient the outcome we’re pursuing, because it’s just cash poured down the drain. That’s the basic truth you need to keep anchoring your meetings back toward.

Bespoke NHS insights to help your company build solid relationships

To elaborate on these basic tenets, I’ve teamed up with Life Science Access Academy to put this advice on a more formal footing – and give you the help you need to forge fruitful working relationships within the NHS.

I have produced 12 online learning modules, along with two bonus modules, which aim to give Pharma, MedTech and Appliance companies a complete understanding of the NHS, how it works and what they are looking for from you.

The modules are:

1.  Understanding Integrated Care Systems.

2.  Understanding Primary Care Networks.

3.  Why engaging GP federations and super practices is the right route for you.

4.  Stakeholder mapping system and process.

5.  Understanding the money flow in the NHS in England.

6.  Engaging the NHS – asking remarkable questions.

7.  Prevention-led agenda, the four tests your project must pass, and where suboptimal treatment is likely to fit.

8.  Out of hospital care – seven steps to scoping and implementing your project.

9.  Population health.

10. The system and process for pathway redesign.

11.  Why you must differentiate, why you might want to create incentives and how to develop reference sites.

12.  You need to work beyond the molecule, why phasing your project over longer may help you, is the customer 100% happy and why a two-cycle CQC audit adds huge value to a project.

13.  BONUS 1 – Developing a gain share with Integrated Care Boards.

14.  BONUS 2 – Why recycling existing budgets is likely to be a requirement for the foreseeable future.

Each module will be introduced by a weekly blog piece. I’m also offering an hour of my time, online, per month. I’ll look into your existing accounts and help account plan, project plan, pre-call plan – whatever you want, we’ll get into it.

The other part of the module is customer interviews. Through these interviews, you will get key, first-hand insights into what makes the NHS buy – or not buy – from industry. We’ll get into likes and dislikes around working with Pharma, MedTech and Appliance companies, what makes them want to work with you and what makes them not want to work with you.

I’ll be asking them very specific questions around their role, the sphere of influence they have locally within their own systems and the key concerns and issues they have about working with industry. I’ll also be asking them about the easiest ways to build rapport with them and what types of evidence and data they like to see.

Without naming pharmaceutical companies, we’ll talk about projects they’ve worked on and what motivated them to work and deliver projects with that company.

Via these conversations, I want to show that with the right approach, the right language and a differentiated, clear problem-solving approach, you can break down the barriers and deliver really remarkable projects.

I’ll support you all the way

This course is a combination of 12 online modules plus bonus material, the additional customer interviews – which provides fantastic insight you wouldn’t get in any other way – and one hour of my time per month for one-to-one support.

You’ll also get ongoing email support throughout the process as well as key updates on policy changes and new announcements as the year goes on.

If this sounds of interest to you, the next step is to jump on a call together so we can talk through your goals and how you can get the most out of the course. You can request a call here, and I will respond promptly.

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.