Sticking to the Knitting


I’ve written about this before, but have become increasing concerned that the pressure on NHS organisation to generate revenue outside of their core business is a dangerous distraction, acts as a barrier to the diffusion of innovation within the NHS and acts against the best interest of patients and taxpayers.

A distraction because NHS management has challenges enough without targets to generate revenues, trivial in comparison to the budgets of the services they manage, form activities which are peripheral to their core business.

A barrier to to the diffusion on innovation because NHS organisations hang on to intellectual property, in the hope of selling it, rather than making freely available to other NHS organisations and the broader UK health and care sector.

Against the best interests of patients, because it distracts people from doing their day-job and denies patients the benefits of innovation from elsewhere in the NHS.

Against the best interest of tax payers, because in many cases the target customers are just other NHS or public sector bodies which at the very best in a zero-sum game but in reality much, much worse because of the cost of sale and the massive opportunity cost from the slowed diffusion of innovation.

Those involved in the system understand and resent the situation, but politicians and policy makers don’t and have created incentives and penalties in the system that force rational people to behave in what are a sub-optimal ways.

I’m all in favour of exploiting public sector IPR to taxpayer benefit and while there are examples of such opportunities at significant scale (most often in pharmaceuticals and biotech) in many more cases the small scale of the opportunity and the disbenefits to patients and taxpayers mean we really should think again.