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Health Cooperation Will Save Lives

Greater UK wide cooperation on specialist medical services is vital if patients are to receive cutting-edge treatment on cancer and other killer diseases, a report by Our Scottish Future declares today.

The report “Care without Borders” argues that, with treatment becoming more specialised and expensive, people across the UK will rely on nationwide centres of excellence for treatment.

It cites the example of proton beam therapy – now available on the NHS in Manchester and London – which Uses high energy protons to target tumours located in critical parts of the body.

Only a few centres can be afforded and Scottish patients are among those from around the UK now being referred to them – just as English-based patients are also being referred north in other cases.

Report author Andrew Mooney concludes: “With advanced medical treatments becoming ever more expensive and delivered to a small number of people, pooling resources across the UK to deliver services through a couple of centres of excellence ensures we all benefit from medical breakthroughs.”

“It is imperative that this cooperation in delivering highly specialised treatment to everyone in the UK, no matter where they live, continues to be provided,” he says.

Today’s report also examines the deep coordination on health that exists across the UK on many specialist treatment areas.

It examines the transplant service, organised on a UK wide level to ensure that as big as possible a pool of organs are available to patients in need no matter where they live.

The report finds that Scotland is a net beneficiary: while 1,810 organs were donated from Scotland to the UK wide scheme between 2015 and 2022, Scottish patients were the recipients of 2,118 organs in return.

It also finds that the UK wide system is deeply embedded: over the same time frame, 63% of Scottish organs donated were sent to a recipient in England while the same percentage of Scottish recipient organs originated from a source in England.

The report concludes: “This high level of cooperation ensures that the maximum number of organs are delivered to the best patient match, increasing the success rate of transplants and quality of life for recipients”.

Examining all elective cross border procedures in Scotland, the report finds that between 2015 and 2022, a total of 4,160 treatments were approved for Scottish based patients in England. It concludes that 1 in 200 patients in Scotland therefore required elective procedures outside of Scotland.

Going the other way, the report finds that over the same timeframe, 9,706 patients from outside Scotland used elective or outpatient services in Scotland.

The foreword to the paper is written by Dr Zubir Ahmed, a transplant and vascular surgeon in Glasgow, recently selected as the Labour candidate for the Glasgow South West seat.

He comments: “The trajectory of medical science is heavily weighted toward ever increasingly complex and personalised treatments. Small scale healthcare institutions and smaller nations such as Scotland, face a unique challenge in delivering these treatments on an equitable and high quality basis.”

“This paper assesses succinctly the impact of delivering certain such services administrated at a UK level. As a member of the transplantation community in the UK I am pleased that this paper adumbrates the success and wisdom in particular of delivering organ transplantation through the pooling of resources across the 4 UK nations.”

“The paper demonstrates the utility and equity of access trans nation NHS cooperation can bring for Scottish patients in undeniable statistical form. Scottish patients are net beneficiaries from solid organ transplants as well as access to specialist care in relation to rare diseases. It is therefore imperative for all of us working in healthcare to use research such as this as a stepping stone to deepen the UK level NHS cooperative spirit. In the era of digital healthcare such cooperation has the potential to better utilize the capacity of our common NHS to deliver better patient outcomes whether you live in Lothian or Lincoln.”

Looking to the future, the report says UK wide cooperation will be vital in areas such as regenerative medicine – whereby stem cells are used to repair damaged or diseased human cells.

Mooney concludes: “Specialised centres across the UK are developing advanced therapeutics for regenerative medicine and its overlapping but independent field, cell and gene therapy. These centres are fast becoming national and international hubs attracting a high concentration of expertise.”

He adds: “Researchers clustered in one city can provide life enhancing treatments to patients living in other parts of the UK, With greater specialisation  and agglomeration of expertise in fewer sites, alongside the high costs of medical technology, continued health cooperation across the UK is vital. This will ensure that an individual who could benefit from medical breakthroughs, such as children with previously incurable leukaemia have access to treatment no matter were they live in the UK.”

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