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by Angela McFarlane, IQVIA
17 October 2022
Associate Feature: Innovating Healthcare

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Associate Feature: Innovating Healthcare

Leaders in Scottish healthcare and life sciences have called for a closer partnership between the two sectors at a recent event in Edinburgh supported by IQVIA. Although the panel, featuring contributions from Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf MSP, Scotland’s Chief Scientist for Health, Dame Anna Dominiczak and other senior health service leaders, recognised that some progress had been made, much more direct focus on closer working was needed. The event - “Innovating Healthcare” - was hosted by Chamber UK at Dynamic Earth, chaired by me, and was attended by industry specialists from across the country.

In an often frank and honest exchange, I was encouraged to see a shared general recognition that further and deeper partnerships between the NHS, academia and Scotland’s life sciences sector was needed to deal with the long-term challenges faced by the health service. 

As the Cabinet Secretary said: “If I’m being really up front and honest, the leadership has got to come from the top, from the Government, from our [NHS] Chief Executives, Chairs. It has to come from our organisations like the CFSD [Centre for Sustainable Delivery], whose entire purpose is to drive innovation in the health service…The Health Service needs to buy into this vision.”


Widening access to trials

One of the principal ways in which patients can benefit from an innovation-led approach is through accelerated pathways into clinical trials for new medicines and treatments. The event panel was quick to recognise that making the route to participation as straightforward as possible, within regulatory safeguards, should be a key priority. As Dame Anna Dominiczak, the Chief Scientist made clear, “what we need to achieve is a situation where enrolment in a clinical trial is part of our normal everyday activity. This is what we do - this is how we deliver service [to patients].”

Embedding clinical trial signposting and widespread recruitment into routine clinical practice is the big change that’s required. That approach is set to provide economic benefit too, with a vibrant and growing life sciences industry in Scotland, and a wider vibrant clinical trials environment across the UK. That vibrancy is evident, not least of all, in the IQVIA/Q2 Solutions facility on the Alba Campus at Livingston, where we employ 1200 in high quality roles, making IQVIA the largest life sciences employer in Scotland.

In addition to smoothing the recruitment to trials, the panel made clear that there are further transformative benefits to be derived from making better use of medical data, subject to proper patient consent, providing all parties adequately communicate and support those who permit the use of their information on an anonymised basis.

As Chris Carrigan from the patient organisation, Use MY Data, made clear: “Scotland has a massive opportunity to lead the field in health data science….Let the people know what is going on with their data, get them more involved, better informed, and they will become patient advocates [for the use of health data].”


Scotland’s health data science opportunity

In truth, Scotland has one of the most comprehensive health data ecosystems in the world, and there is a massive opportunity to make better use of that information, all of which is linked through the patient’s Community Health Index (CHI) number by integrating and simplifying the access to that dataset for research purposes. Utilising world leading health analytics, we should be able to drive early intervention on some of the public health challenges that face our NHS.

Taking action to address those twin challenges – enabling more patients to easily access appropriate clinical trials, and making better use of integrated health data – has the potential to transform health outcomes at a time when we know the NHS faces major challenges. The entire panel agreed that we need to get smarter in the way we deliver personalised care for patients, whether through life enhancing clinical trials or engaging more of the public in the use of healthcare data.

Earlier in the day, prior to the “Innovating Healthcare” event, we were delighted to host Dame Anna on a visit to our Livingston facility, where she was able to see for herself some of the fantastic work being undertaken on site, not least of all in the new multi-million pound genomics facility which has recently been completed with support from Scottish Enterprise.

It was a good opportunity to demonstrate our contribution to Scottish healthcare innovation, as well as our contribution towards life sciences economic development which brings jobs and wider economic benefit to the whole country.

As Dame Anna said after her visit, “we need to work together to bring benefits to our communities…If we put all our efforts together, we can really make Scotland the best place in the world to come and innovate in health.”

That’s such an inspiring message, and one which emphasises the opportunity we have to drive healthcare innovation to improve outcomes for individual patients and the nation as a whole, as well as build a world leading life sciences industry the country can be proud of.

Scotland, and its NHS, if it takes the important next steps, can lead the world in health outcomes, and life sciences economic development.


Angela McFarlane is Vice President, Strategic Planning Northern Europe, IQVIA

The video of the “Innovating Healthcare” event can be viewed here.

This article is sponsored by IQVIA.

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