Partnerships are vital if we are to understand how to improve patient experience and outcomes, reduce hospitalisations and other costly disease implications. No single organisation has everything it takes to deliver complete healthcare, which is why, every year, the global biopharmaceutical company MSD spends around £40m with NHS and UK academic institutions to collaborate on innovative solutions that put patients at their centre. At the same time, MSD also works with the NHS on joint working partnerships to pool skills and experience to help patients.
“We want to make sure that we give patients the support they need,” says Lucy Kendall, MSD area healthcare lead. “Working with external partners with frontline experience, like the NHS, is crucial to gaining this knowledge to help us develop the right medicines and support systems for our patients. It also helps us to make sure that the system in the UK is able to use what we produce in a sustainable way – so everybody wins.”
Some projects are aimed at giving healthcare professionals the knowledge they need to help patients. MSD is working in collaboration with HIV clinicians in Brighton to gain a better understanding of the evolving challenges for patients, GPs and pharmacists. The Think ARV (antiretroviral) pilot, which Kendall is currently working on, provides GPs and pharmacists in the Brighton area with the knowledge they need to treat and minimise complications in people who are now living longer with HIV, and as such also need treatment for the conditions that come with ageing. They need lifelong treatment with a combination of ARV medicines, but preventing potential complications as a result of living longer with HIV as well as conditions of normal ageing can be a problem for GPs and pharmacists if they don’t have specialist knowledge.
“Our specialist HIV pharmacists frequently identify problems when a patient is already taking one medicine which, when administered along with their other medicines, can cause unwanted side effects,” says Su Shin Lim, specialist HIV pharmacist at the Lawson Unit at Royal Sussex County hospital. “We wanted to explore what help prescribers required to avoid such problems. After hearing about other successful MSD and NHS partnerships, we approached the company to find ways to work together to meet this goal. MSD’s financial and practical support, when pooled with our NHS resources, gave us the solution.
Following extensive research and discussions with GPs, the HIV clinicians and specialist pharmacists at the Royal Sussex County hospital, the partnership decided that setting up and promoting a telephone helpline for GPs would be the best solution. The project’s success is currently being evaluated, with a view to making it permanent.
The project’s next goal is to make treatment available there and then in the pharmacy. “You can achieve so much more as a wider team: collectively you have so much more intelligence, experience and energy,” says Hayley Ward, who, as MSD’s area healthcare lead for north-east London, worked on the hepatitis C project. “The project advances quicker,” she says, “you get the outcomes faster – and all of this ultimately benefits patients.”
By collaborating with other like-minded innovators, MSD is also looking ahead at tackling the demand on the UK healthcare system. This includes exploring the potential of new digital technologies to reduce future costs to the NHS, as well as empowering patients to take more control of their own care and wellbeing.
In Scotland, the MSD Healthcare Services team has worked in partnership with NHS Scotland to set up the Scottish Primary Care Information Resource (SPIRE), to develop a standardised data extract and reporting system to help analysis of general practice data in all GP clinics in Scotland, covering more than 5 million patients. Anonymous data is securely extracted from general practice IT systems throughout the country – this anonymous data is managed by NHS Scotland – and is used in order to give a national overview of primary care, help monitor the health of the population and enable NHS Scotland to plan and manage future services accordingly. Some of the benefits include helping healthcare professionals to plan for long-term management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or heart problems; to know how many people are getting vaccinated or taking particular medicines; and to respond more effectively to major public health issues such as flu epidemics