A Medical Device Daily

A report from National Health Service (NHS) Chief Executive Nigel Crisp indicates that the NHS is meeting targets ahead of time in speeding up treatment for those needing heart surgery, cancer treatment and cataract procedures.

New UK Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said, for instance, that patients requiring coronary bypasses or angioplasties are having their operations within three months. She said the progress made in tackling heart disease typified the “huge improvements” being experienced across the service.

She said the target to treat heart patients within three months was met in March, three years ahead of schedule, compared to waits of more than 18 months in 2000 and up to two years in the benchmark year of 1997.

Crisp’s report confirms that patients are experiencing faster access to services across the board and that the NHS is providing improved quality of care. He said the progress marks the halfway point in delivering the NHS Plan.

Also in the report:

  • More than 99% of those with suspected cancer are seen by a specialist within two weeks of referral, and in excess of 97% of women with breast cancer receive treatment within one month of diagnosis.
  • British men have had the world’s sharpest fall in deaths from lung cancer, and in the past decade British women have had the world’s biggest decrease in deaths from breast cancer.
  • By the end of January, no one was waiting more than three months for their first cataract operation, a target that was met four years ahead of schedule. Cataract surgery is one of the most common types of surgical procedures in the NHS.
  • The number of people waiting for surgery was reduced by 491,000 to a record low of 822,000 in March compared to 1,313,000 in April 1998, a reduction of 37%.
  • The NHS is becoming a world leader for emergency care, with more than 98% of patients seen and treated in Accident & Emergency within four hours.
  • Unnecessary waiting for discharge from hospitals after treatment is continuing to be reduced, with levels of delayed discharges falling from 2,841 in March 2004 to 2,359 in March 2005.

Noting that her appointment as health secretary “falls at almost precisely the halfway mark in the 10-year program that the prime minister and Alan Milburn set out in the NHS Plan in 2000, Hewitt said, “this report should give patients, staff and taxpayers great encouragement. These are significant achievements for the NHS. They are a result of the extra investment we’ve been putting into the system, our program of reform, and the dedication and hard work of NHS staff.”

She referred to the NHS Plan as “an ambitious program of investment and reform [that] set a direction of modernization that is putting patients – not the providers – at the center of everything the NHS does.”

Hewitt said she intends to “continue to modernize and reform the way services are provided to patients. We need to focus on achieving our pledge to reduce the maximum waiting time to 18 weeks, we need to transform the system to give patients more choice and more control over their treatment, and we need to press on with tackling MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus].”

Crisp added: “We are now at the halfway mark of the NHS Plan and progress has been very good. We know there is more to do but these achievements give me confidence that we can improve services even further.”

More dialyzer capacity for Gambro

Gambro (Stockholm, Sweden) said it would expand its capacity for dialyzers with synthetic membranes in its existing dialyzer plant in Meyzieu, France. It said the investment in new capacity would enable the company to increase its production capacity by more than 2 million dialyzers annually.

The work to reconstruct the plant in Meyzieu will start immediately and will take about 12 months before it is fully operational. The company said the investment supports its strategy to further grow its business in the rapidly expanding market for dialyzers with synthetic membranes.

“This important initiative gives Gambro the opportunity to take an even stronger position in the fast growing market for dialyzers with synthetic membranes,” said Jon Risfelt, president of Gambro Renal Products.

Earlier this year, Gambro reported that a new manufacturing plant for dialyzers with synthetic membranes would be built in Opelika, Alabama. The company said that since 1999, it has made investment decisions – including the Alabama plant and the expansion in France – that in total will result in an increased production capacity of more than 32 million synthetic dialyzers a year.

It said that with the additional production capacity, it is well prepared to meet the increased global market demand for dialyzers with synthetic membranes.

The new capacity will be added to the existing production of synthetic membrane dialyzers at the Meyzieu plant. In addition, disposables for the Prisma and Prismaflex system used in intensive care units are produced in that plant.

Bii forms commercial trading arm

The Biosystems Informatics Institute (Bii; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK) has reported the formation of a commercial trading arm, Turbinia Ltd., which will facilitate business development and marketing of software tools and fee-for-service offerings in bioinformatics and systems biology, specializing in data integration from across the post-genomic technologies.

Product development of the organization will focus on monitoring, interpreting and predicting off-target drug effects.

Bii also said it has entered its first commercial deal by securing exclusive rights to distribute mathematical know-how, systems biology support and software emanating from Moscow State University and a number of other high-profile Russian institutes. This collaboration forms an integral part of the systems biology products and services to be offered by Turbinia.