Reflections from NICON22

This year's conference, entitled 'Recognition Ambition Mobilisation', saw delegates from across the health and care system come together to share ideas, reflect, network and learn.

Over October 19th and 20th, La Mon House in Belfast was packed with delegates, after two years of a virtual set up, NICON22 was a sea of long overdue in person catch ups and conversations. A packed 2-day agenda saw a wide-ranging set of sessions and plenty of opportunities for colleagues and partners from across the health and care system, as well as the private and voluntary and community sector to come together, share ideas, reflect, network, and learn.

As long-standing event partners of NICON conferences the ABPI were delighted to support in the delivery of a programme designed to focus on the unprecedented service pressures, political uncertainty and cost of living challenges while setting out ambitious visions for change and embracing innovative ways of collaborating to co-create a future for health in Northern Ireland.   

At every NICON conference ABPI lead on sessions raising awareness of critical aspects of the health eco-system. In 2021 the session on Sustainability offered an opportunity to showcase how pharmaceutical companies are helping the fight against climate change and provide support for a ‘Greener NHS’.

This year our session ‘Clinical Research-Time to make it everyone’s business’ in association with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University provided the platform to discuss how clinical trials are an essential part of the research and development of new medicines and vaccines and have the triple win of bringing benefits to patients, healthcare systems and the economy.

Closer to home the session also addressed the challenges around Northern Ireland’s investment in clinical research and raising this to a level of parity with other nations across the UK. Ensuring all patients, regardless of their location, gender or ethnicity have the opportunity to participate in cutting edge clinical research opportunities and to address health inequalities. On the day of the session the ABPI published the report Rescuing patient access to industry clinical trials in the UK.

It would be remiss not to address that the road ahead for clinical research is challenging throughout the UK with concerning outcomes. Reduced access to interventional industry clinical trials has significant consequences for patients, whose access to innovative treatments is diminishing. The vision for clinical research in Northern Ireland is ambitious with the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH) and the Implementation Plan developed by the Northern Ireland Clinical Research, Recovery, Resilience and Growth Taskforce of which the ABPI are committed partners to driving change and leading on actions.

Continuing on the integral link between investment in health and benefits to the wider economy the second ABPI sponsored session ‘Health and Economy- Harnessing innovation’ saw the official launch of an ABPI supported report ‘Health and Wealth in Northern Ireland: Capitalising on the Opportunities’ co-created with NICON and Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI). The report sets out a revitalised approach to create a shared vision, mission, and purpose by Northern Ireland policy makers to supercharge the health innovation ecosystem to fully realise the benefits for the Northern Ireland population.

At the time of writing political uncertainty remains in Northern Ireland, in May 2022 ahead of Assembly elections, the ABPI Northern Ireland Manifesto set out five ‘asks’ to a formed Assembly to ease pressures on the healthcare system and ensure patients can benefit from the latest research in medicines and vaccines. They are:

  • improving access to new treatments
  • supporting the adoption of innovative solutions to reduce waiting lists
  • building a skilled and resilient health and life sciences workforce
  • increasing investment in clinical research 
  • working towards building public trust in the benefits of sharing health data.  

The ABPI are committed and long-established partners in Health and Life Sciences and will continue to play an important role as Northern Ireland continues this transformation, and this was evident throughout the discussions had at NICON22. Now the follow on work begins and we will work towards maximising the contribution our industry can make towards achieving the goal to ‘create a service fit for the future’.

Congratulations to all those involved in NICON22, after such a challenging few years, it was inspiring to be a part of recognising the effort of so many who have, in the face of unprecedented challenges, kept a healthcare system delivering and progressing.

It was an opportunity to share ambitions and hope for the future and it was a call to mobilise those involved to innovate and drive. In closing the conference NHS Confederation Chief Executive, Matthew Taylor eluded to NICON23 being a showcase of solutions, let’s rise to that challenge.  

TAGS
  • Clinical research
  • Trials
  • Northern Ireland