Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: An aggressive effort by the UK government to reduce health care backlogs and adopt health technology is likely to require imports from the best and the brightest suppliers, including companies in Wisconsin.
The UK is pledging to upgrade health care for its residents, allocating £12 billion ($14.7 billion USD) a year for the next three years to reduce waiting lists for hospital care, hire 50,000 more nurses, add 40 hospitals and upgrade technology.
With huge backlogs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government in March 2022 announced a new program, Build Back Better: Our Plan for Health and Social Care.
While the National Health Service (NHS) prioritized COVID-19 patients and has treated more than 500,000 of them in UK hospitals since March 2020, other patients have endured much longer waits than usual for non-COVID treatment. In England alone, a record 5.5 million patients are waiting for care that ranges from tests to non-emergency surgery—about 900,000 more than before the pandemic, the government said.
In addition to more hospitals and staff, innovation will be a key factor, such as using virtual clinics, sharing best practices, analyzing data and updating diagnostic techniques. A £50 million ($52.7 million USD) research, innovation and collaboration fund will be established to improve patients’ health care outcomes.
A new health and social care tax levy will be imposed on residents to help fund the expanded services and to sustain the NHS for the long term.
The UK already had announced plans in October 2021 to spend £2.1 billion ($2.6 billion USD) for digital health technology to improve efficiency and security in the NHS. That includes providing faster broadband for medical staff and electronic health records for patients. It also had announced funding to digitize diagnostic services in order to accelerate treatment.
Efforts to computerize the UK’s complicated health care system have been in progress for several years but have moved relatively slowly. England’s current NHS executive has committed the organization to achieve national interoperable electronic health records. Digital innovation also is a key part of the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan.
The U.S. is already a leading supplier of diagnostic, dental and orthopedic equipment, as well as high-quality wound care products, to the UK. Within the digital segment, there is a need for clinical efficiency tools, innovative apps and wearables, health analytics tools, remote consultation tools and monitoring devices that can improve clinical outcomes and patient experiences across all areas of the health care system. There could be excellent opportunities for Wisconsin companies in this sector.
The NHS accounts for about 85% of the UK’s health care expenditures. It can be challenging to sell directly to the NHS from overseas, so many U.S. exporters form partnerships with well-established local companies. This enables new entrants to take advantage of their partner’s market expertise as well as their access to buyers and other decision makers. Potential suppliers also have the option of approaching private sector health care providers through their procurement teams.
Companies should be aware that CE-marked medical devices can be sold in England, Wales and Scotland until June 2023. A new UKCA mark will be required after that. The CE mark will still be required in Northern Ireland.