Blueprints for UK pharma-NHS joint working

Joint working could hold at least part of the answer to getting the NHS back on its feet after COVID, according to the ABPI.

As the NHS begins to recover from the biggest crisis in its history, the biopharmaceutical industry is stepping up to the plate to offer its support and a new online repository of joint working case studies aims to help make that as easy as possible for both sides.

Complied by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the resource contains a growing number of practical examples of joint working, all geared towards demonstrating how the model can positively impact on patient care.

The idea, according to the ABPI’s executive director of strategy, research, and partnerships Colette Goldrick, is to accelerate uptake of the model across the health service.

“Our member companies have been working on collaborative projects with the NHS for at least a decade now,” she said.

“At the start of each project, the first question an NHS partner usually asks is ‘has anyone done this before?’. Being able to demonstrate that it has been will really help to build confidence and share best practice.”

The case studies, she said, represented “genuine collaboration” between industry and the NHS.

“It’s not about industry funding something, it’s about industry offering skills and expertise that otherwise would be in scarce supply because of resource constraints,” she said.

Tackling NHS COVID challenges

The repository, which is searchable by disease area or geography, comes at a time when the need for joint working is on the rise, Goldrick explained.

“As the NHS continues to work through successive waves of COVID, it is also facing significant challenges in restoring and restarting standard of care in other diseases.

“There is a huge desire in industry to ensure people get the care they need, and we need to be facilitating every possible opportunity to make that happen.”

The joint working model is a well-established method, dating back to 2009, and, the ABPI believes, it benefits everyone involved.

“It’s about showing those who may not have worked with industry in this way before that it can deliver really good results for patients”

“The pandemic has brought this into sharp focus, but the NHS often struggles with resources because it is so busy dealing with the day-to-day care that people need.

“It can make it difficult to step back and see how things like pathways or at home services, for example, could be improved – there simply isn’t enough internal resource to do so,” said Goldrick.

The pharma industry has the expertise, the knowledge, and the tools to help NHS colleagues implement programmes that will improve patient care, and they want to share them, she went on.

“The whole point of industry is inventing and bringing to market medicines that will improve people’s lives,” she said.

“Working with the NHS to ensure people can access those medicines, and that they are used appropriately within pathways, represents a win for pharma and biopharma companies as much as it does for patients and the health service.”

NHS-pharma joint working case studies

Under current compliance rules, industry players have a duty to publish the details of all joint working initiatives on their website.

The ABPI has worked with its members to extend and expand upon more than 50 of these summaries and collated them into the repository. More are expected to follow, said Goldrick, who described it as a “living resource”.

Central to the initiative is demonstrating the potential outcomes of joint working projects, so as to demonstrate the value they can offer.

“These projects can take a long time to carry out, and by the time they reach their conclusion, people in the companies or the NHS have often changed jobs or moved on,” she said.

It means the originally posted summaries are often not updated to show how the project impacted on services or patient care.

Goldrick said: “The most valuable part of this work will be getting those outcomes out there so that we can demonstrate the difference these projects made to patients.

“That’s what makes the case studies compelling, and that is what will give NHS stakeholders confidence in this way of working. It’s about showing those who may not have worked with industry in this way before that it can deliver really good results for patients.

“It’s also about sharing good practice. We know that however brilliant a project is, it can be difficult to get it replicated,” she said, adding that the case studies provided something of a blueprint for organisations to work with.

In the future, her team envisions all joint working projects being included in the repository at initiation and then updated as their outcomes become clear.

Getting involved

The ABPI is working with several pharma and biopharma companies to add their case studies to the repository. Any others who would like to take part can contact:

NHS stakeholders who would like to find out more about joint working can speak to their industry reps.

• View the ABPI NHS-pharma partnerships case study repository

About the author

Amanda Barrell is a freelance health and medical education journalist, editor and copywriter. She has worked on projects for pharma, charities and agencies, and has written extensively for patients, healthcare professionals and the general public.