Collaboration with industry will help NHS face next 75 years, says ABPI


ABPI partnerships director Brian Duggan considers the role that partnerships with industry have played in the last 75 years of the NHS, and how those partnerships can help the NHS face the future.

Birthdays are a moment for reflection, which is why we commissioned The King’s Fund to take a considered look at the NHS at 75 and see how it compares with other health systems around the world.

The report found that on one hand, the NHS gives patients the security of a universal health service, free at the point of need, which has protected people from the costs of ill-health over the last 75 years.

And it scores highly on levels of public satisfaction – in 2019, 53% of people in the UK were satisfied with their national healthcare system, the second highest out of 12 countries measured. In an Ipsos survey, the NHS topped the list of things that made them proud to be British.

However, on the other hand, the successes of the NHS on affordability measures are not translating into better health outcomes for patients in the UK.

The UK tends to have much poorer health outcomes than its peers, coming 16th and 18th respectively for preventable and treatable causes of mortality in a basket of 19 comparable countries.1

It also shows a mixed performance on avoidable hospital admissions for long-term conditions. While the UK performs relatively well on avoidable hospital admissions for diabetes and heart failure, it performs poorly on those for asthma and COPD.

What can we do to turn this around?

Better use of medicines and partnership between the NHS and industry must be part of the strategy.

UK spending on medicines is the lowest among its peers, accounting for just 9% of the UK’s overall healthcare spend. This was the lowest proportion among eight other similar countries, including Italy 17%, Germany 17%, and France 15%.2

Our research with the NHS Confederation earlier this year showed that quick adoption of evidence-based, innovative medicines is a strategic opportunity for health systems. The medicines themselves have clinical benefits, but they also have an important broader impact on the NHS, society, and the economy.

More equitable use of just 13 medicines in line with NICE recommendations across four treatment areas – stroke prevention, kidney disease, asthma, and type 2 diabetes – could bring significant economic benefits to the UK, in addition to wider individual and community benefits for patients, carers, and families.3

At the moment, there is a huge difference in the adoption of medicines across NHS Trusts in England. For diabetes alone, there is more than a 51% variation in the adoption of treatments between NHS Trusts.4

For all NICE-approved medicines, there is a 59% variation in adoption between the poorest performers in London, and the best in class in Wales.5

There are several reasons for this. Practical barriers include a lack of capacity in the workforce to develop the pathways for medicines and it can be seen as a risk or additional burden on already limited resources, rather than a solution to challenges.

Creative partnership across industry, the NHS, and local communities

The opportunity for us to grasp as the NHS reaches 75 is to embed creative partnership across industry, the NHS, and local communities. This can help to improve the adoption of medicines and result in better health outcomes for those communities.

We saw that partnership in action at scale during the pandemic, when the NHS delivered the fastest roll-out of vaccines in history during the pandemic, as well as keeping essential medicines flowing to the people who needed them.

And we also see dozens of local examples of partnerships delivering for patients, as well. For example, MSD’s campaign on lung cancer awareness helped to support lung cancer referrals during the pandemic, so patients could be identified and treated promptly. Cancer alliances where the campaign took place showed a 5.4% increase in referrals.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust & Boehringer Ingelheim established a clinic for people with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. This helped reduce waiting lists for diabetes review, reducing patient visits in primary and secondary care. The clinic provided people with the tools needed to adopt healthier lifestyles – with 38% receiving a home blood pressure monitor to better optimise blood pressure, and 65% given smoking cessation advice and therapy.

If we apply that same spirit of collaboration and shared goals to other public health challenges that we face at a national level, the NHS and industry will be well-placed to help patients through the challenges of the next 75 years.


  1. The Kings Fund ‘How does the NHS compare to the health care systems of other countries?’ Figure 28, p81, 2023
  2. The Kings Fund ‘How does the NHS compare to the health care systems of other countries?’ Figure 18, p57, 2023
  3. PWC report 'Transforming Lives, Raising Productivity', commissioned by the ABPI, p2, April 2022
  4. NHS Confederation/ABPI report 'Transforming lives, improving health outcomes: tackling the true cost of variation in uptake of innovative medicines', Figure 2, Jan 2023
  5. NHS Confederation/ABPI report 'Transforming lives, improving health outcomes: tackling the true cost of variation in uptake of innovative medicines', Figure 3, Jan 2023
Brian Duggan
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Brian Duggan