‘What can’t we afford to treat anymore?’

“The pharma industry in this country… could be an engine to modernise, improve and grow the economy, and we’ll all benefit from that” – Sir David Nicholson

On Monday evening, in partnership with ‘slow news’ specialists Tortoise, Aurora convened a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with special guests representing industry, the NHS and professionals on the frontline, exploring the question: ‘What can’t we afford to treat anymore?’

Dame Donna Kinnair, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the RCN; Sir David Nicholson, former Chief Executive of the NHS; and Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the ABPI, helped navigate the strategic, ethical and moral challenges of rebuilding a health service that is affordable, effective and, crucially, ready for the next pandemic. 

You can view the full discussion here and here

Though a range of perspectives were shared throughout the discussion, there was broad agreement on the priorities in the near and medium-term. With ever-increasing pressure on the system, it is not only greater financial investment that is needed, but greater investment in collaboration. 

The UK needs a joined-up health and social care system that is truly patient-centric and appropriately staffed. We need to adopt innovations and digital solutions where they can improve efficiency and effectiveness, and we need to to address the social determinants of health head-on, collectively.  

We believe the pharmaceutical industry should be at the heart of these changes, and we know the conversation doesn’t end here. We have lots planned around the theme of collaboration in healthcare, so please get in touch with us to: 

  • Discuss how we can help your organisation to be part of the solution
  • Find out more about our plans, including future events and roundtable discussions
  • Or share your thoughts and ideas


Key themes that emerged from the discussion:

 1. Pressure on capacity will increase

Service availability in the future will undoubtedly be challenged: Sir David estimated up to 30% of capacity over the next 12 months and beyond will go towards dealing with the consequences of coronavirus.

2. Pharma is stepping up to the challenge

Richard Torbett set out the industry’s response to the pandemic: 120 different vaccines are being investigated around the world, with three-quarters of those projects being led by the pharma industry. Every single vaccine candidate will require pharma support to manufacture at scale – the pharma industry is stepping up to the challenge. 

3. We all have a role to play in protecting the NHS

Dame Donna highlighted the need for the UK to think more holistically about healthcare, beyond acute care and hospital settings. She pointed to the dramatic improvements in lung cancer outcomes that were brought about by a dialogue with the population around their responsibility to look after their health – we all have a role to play in alleviating unnecessary pressure on the NHS.

4. Innovation & new delivery models being adopted

The pandemic is already accelerating the adoption of new care delivery models, showing what’s possible when necessity forces long-overdue changes. Countries around the world are trying to create health systems that support people to take responsibility for their health, while reducing unnecessary face to face contact and appointments where appropriate – primarily enabled through digital channels. 

5. Global competition for health professionals 

Sir David warned of the looming challenge of increased global workforce competition, with the greatest limiting factor on the NHS in the future being the availability of skilled staff in a global talent marketplace. And the scale of the challenge is huge: China and India combined have over 20 million healthcare vacancies today. 

6. Greater investment can drive health outcomes and economic growth 

The speakers all advocated the need to fund our health system beyond the 10% of GDP the UK currently spends, with Sir David pointing to evidence showing that it’s possible to spend more on healthcare to deliver better outcomes and grow the economy at the same time. 

7. The evolution of the NHS must be built on patient needs and insights

Only patients can tell you how a health system actually works, not how it’s supposed to work on paper. To create a sustainable healthcare system patients must be engaged, involved in decisions about their care, as well as the design of services. 

 Watch this space for more from us on the theme of collaboration in healthcare.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get in touch

The quickest way to get in contact with us is to give a us call or ping us an email.

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date with the great things we’re doing