With Gordon Brown’s latest attempt to mimic the illusionist David Blaine still fresh in the mind, this month’s On Target takes a look at the important issue of budgets. Rather like Blaine’s endurance stunt in 2003, when he suspended himself in a Plexiglas case 30 feet above the South Bank on the river Thames for 44 days, healthcare budgeting is a question of balance. One step in the wrong direction, and you end up in deep waters.
Nowhere is attention to finance felt more heavily than in healthcare. The NHS is founded upon the principle that healthcare is free for all at the point of need. It attempts this within the constraints of a fixed budget, set by Government and funded by the taxpayer. Increasingly, this is becoming an impossible task.
In 1999, the New Labour government introduced NICE – an NHS regulator responsible for providing national guidance on the treatment of illness. It has been described as the organisation that decides whether or not you die for the want of medical treatment, on the basis of whether it is cost-effective to save your life. Its challenge is to find a balance between economics and human tragedy. In the context of a fixed-budget health plan that promises free healthcare for all, it’s a pretty tricky conundrum.
For the best part of a decade, good news about NICE has been fairly thin on the ground. But amid the current heat of a looming judicial enquiry and a plethora of protests from angry patient groups, On Target this month shows how NICE’s commitment to cost-containment is creating opportunities for the medical devices sector. In an exclusive interview with Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, we look at how the current focus on disinvestment may bring good news to medtech.
Elsewhere, we examine the challenges of the new NHS from a marketing perspective. ‘New customers, new challenges’ argues that the healthcare industry needs to go back to basics in order to update its marketing models for a customer base that is increasingly value-driven and concerned with balancing the books. To sell to the new budget-holders, we need to be able to demonstrate value not just at the clinical level, but at every level of customer service and cost-effective procurement.
Finally, to round off the issue, Mark Murphy offers a guide to the opportunities and pitfalls of the sales conference. His wry commentary on the means by which some industry professionals have used conferences to progress their careers, while others have wrought their own professional downfall, reminds us that whatever our spreadsheets and financial models tell us, it’s still the human touch that makes the difference.
In 2006, David Blaine broke a world record by remaining submerged beneath water for more than seven straight days. What kept him alive? A customised air regulator and an external, condom-style catheter. Testimony that, even in high-profile conjuring tricks to rival those of Gordon Brown’s recent budget, the medical device industry has an essential part to play.