A Medical Device Daily

Eight “pioneer“ health communities have been designated to help in the drive to achieve the fastest-ever access to National Health Service (NHS) treatment in the UK.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the eight would be part of a test program aimed at ensuring a maximum wait of 18 weeks from general practitioner (GP) referral to treatment at an NHS hospital.

The sites include:

  • East Kent (East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, Ashford Primary Care Trust (PCT), Canterbury PCT, East Kent Coastal PCT, Shepway PCT).
  • Gateshead (Gateshead Health NHS FT, Gateshead PCT).
  • Huntingdonshire (Hinchingbrook Healthcare NHS Acute Trust, Huntingdonshire PCT, Norfolk and Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA).
  • King's (King's College Hospital NHS Trust, Southwark PCT, SE London SHA).
  • North Nottinghamshire (Newark and Sherwood PCT, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, Trent SHA, Mansfield District PCT, Ashfield PCT, Bassetlaw PCT).
  • Oldham (North East Sector/Greater Manchester: five PCTs and one large acute-care trust).
  • Royal Devon & Exeter (Exeter, East and Mid Devon PCTs, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS FT).
  • South Bedfordshire (Luton PCT, Bedfordshire Heartland PCT, Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Trust, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire SHA).
The so-called pioneers will kick off their work by developing what the Department of Health characterized as “simple and effective ways of measuring referral to treatment times.“ From there, they will look at how they can reorganize their systems so that patients can get through all the stages of the patient pathway within 18 weeks.

In announcing the program, Winterton said, “The NHS has already cut the maximum wait for in-patient treatment to six months. Now the NHS is stepping up to an even bigger challenge. It is ending hidden waiting lists for things like diagnostics procedures and ensuring the whole patient pathway is measured and managed as one. This, coupled with the choice of hospitals now offered to all, will give patients the type of access only previously enjoyed by those who could afford to pay for it.“

She said the new 18-week patient pathway would be an “historic“ change to the way in which the NHS tackles waiting lists. By December 2008, the entire patient journey will be managed and measured as one. For the first time, PCTs will be responsible for ensuring that all of the local health providers move patients as quickly as possible through the different stages toward treatment.

Traditionally in the NHS, individual hospitals have been responsible for achieving targets to improve access and reduce waiting times. Until this year, the NHS has only ever measured individual parts of the patient journey – inpatient waits and outpatient waits, for example – often not taking into account waits such as for diagnostic procedures.

Winterton said that while 18 weeks will be the maximum wait for the vast majority of patients, “the aim is to ensure that most patient journeys are much shorter than this.“

In a further boost to the NHS' efforts to tackle diagnostic waiting lists, the Department of Health also reported that the NHS had met its target of recruiting an additional 1,000 radiographers. More than 1,400 additional radiographers and radiography assistants now are working in the NHS than in 2003.

Winterton said that news “shows that extra investment means more staff, and this, together with the historic reforms we are delivering, will ultimately mean a better NHS for all of us.“

She noted that the NHS is making “good progress“ in rolling out picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) as another way of helping to reduce diagnostic waits, saying that 21 PACS systems are up and running.

Boston Sci, Abbott in European filings

Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts) said Thursday that it had filed the required notification with the European Commission of its intention to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Guidant (Indianapolis).

On Jan. 25, Boston Scientific and Guidant reported that they had entered into a merger agreement, under which Boston Scientific will acquire all the outstanding shares of Guidant for a combination of cash and stock worth $80 per Guidant share, or about $27 billion (Medical Device Daily, Jan. 26, 2006).

As previously reported, Boston Scientific has entered into an agreement with Abbott (Abbott Park, Illinois) under which that company will acquire Guidant's vascular intervention and endovascular businesses, while agreeing to share rights to Guidant's drug-eluting stent program with Boston Scientific.

Boston Scientific has said it believes that the agreement with Abbott will enable it to “rapidly secure“ antitrust approvals for the proposed transaction. Abbott's notification to the European Commission was made concurrently with Boston Scientific's.

MedMira signs Dutch distributor for HIV test

MedMira (Halifax, Nova Scotia) said it has signed a distribution agreement with Clindia Benelux of the Netherlands for the MiraCare Rapid HIV Antibody Test. Clindia will begin sales of the rapid test in late March.

Initially, MedMira's instant HIV test, which detects antibodies in whole blood, serum and plasma, will enter the market via hospitals and public health clinics, where demand is highest.

“Clindia has an excellent reputation and solid experience in diagnostic sales to the healthcare market. We remain excited about the overall potential in Europe and now the opportunity to develop current and future markets for instant HIV tests in the Netherlands with Clindia,“ said Giles Crouch, vice president of global sales and marketing for MedMira.

The company said the Netherlands will be an important entry point for MiraCare HIV into the European over-the-counter (OTC) market, since healthcare advancements such as OTC rapid HIV tests “are more readily accepted by the country's healthcare system and consumer population.“

“To finally have a reliable and instant HIV test available in the Netherlands is an asset to our healthcare system,“ said Clindia CEO Peter Langens. “MedMira's reputation for quality and their strong technical support team will be of great help as we work together to grow the market.“