As another busy year draws to a close, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on our key achievements of the past 12 months, and to look ahead to our priorities for 2023 and beyond.

I was immensely proud to join NICE as chief executive in February. It’s an organisation that I’ve admired and respected throughout my career. In my previous roles as a doctor and NHS manager, I found its expertise indispensable for decision making.

For over 20 years, NICE has got the best care to people fast, while ensuring value for the taxpayer. And it’s achieved this through independence, transparency and rigour - principles that are rightly respected across the globe, and that underpin everything NICE does, to this day.

As we enter 2023, NICE’s core purpose remains the same. But the world around us is changing: the rate and pace of innovation is increasing exponentially, and health and care practitioners are working under exceptional pressures.

So, this year, we’ve taken important strides to adapt. We’ve listened to our stakeholders, and they’ve told us we would make a greater contribution to the health and care system by:

  • focusing on what matters most

  • creating advice that’s useful and usable

  • continually learning from data and implementation.

Reflecting on our activity of the past 12 months, I can see that we’ve responded to these challenges at speed, and that we’re developing innovative approaches to meet them.

Focusing on what matters most: adolescent mental health, health inequalities, cancer

This year, we’ve focused on areas where NICE advice can make the biggest difference.

To speed up access to care that generates the most significant health gains we have evaluated COVID-19 therapeutics and apps for children and young people with anxiety and depression, both of which have the potential to benefit hundreds of thousands of people during the high-pressure winter period.

To address key areas of unmet need, we published landmark guidelines for people with type 1 diabetes that will enable over 250,000 people to benefit from real-time glucose monitoring, improving glycaemic control and long-term health outcomes. And since June, we’ve recommended 3 new treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, a type of cancer that has fewer treatment options and accounts for a disproportionately higher number of breast cancer deaths.

We’ve also begun work on virtual wards – a key project that will help the health and care system with current capacity and efficiency challenges.

Continuing our work on health inequalities, we launched a new practical online resource that provides NICE-recommended, evidence-based approaches aimed at integrated care systems. Nearly 10,000 people engaged with this resource in the first month, and I was incredibly pleased to see the warm reception it’s had by colleagues, practitioners and system partners.

Creating advice that’s useful and usable: ‘living’ guidelines and increasing capacity for technology appraisals

While preserving our independence, transparency, and rigour we are improving the speed and proportionality of our advice.

I’m delighted that NHS patients are now often the first in Europe, or the world, to access innovative new pharmaceuticals. Industry data shows that the UK is third globally in the number of medicines commercialised within one year of their first approval.

Given the rate of innovation, to continue this we need to take a proportionate approach to our assessment of medicines. We will move towards applying light-touch, faster evaluations to simpler, low-risk treatments. This year, we've piloted our first new medicines through this streamlined approach, which is 25% faster than our full standard process, and which we expect to expand our capacity for new drug appraisals by 20%.

We launched our Early Value Assessment Programme, through which we’re identifying promising healthtech products, including apps and digital technologies, and enabling earlier access to them while further data is collected for a full evaluation.

We’ve also begun to change how we manage our portfolio of guidelines, so we can prioritise recommendations that matter most to the system for more frequent and quicker updates, as part of our ‘living guidelines’ programme. Our ultimate aim is to update recommendations on key topics within 3 to 6 months of new, practice-changing evidence emerging.

Continually learning from data and implementation: establishing partnerships and using real world evidence

In 2022, we established key partnerships that will enable us to shape and improve the health and care system.

Together with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, NICE was awarded £1.8m funding by Wellcome to produce guidance on regulating digital mental health tools, a key area of need. We have also partnered with international health technology assessment agencies, including those in Canada, Australia, Scotland, and Wales to deliver key strategic work efficiently.

We’ve made great progress towards our goal to use real world data to improve our guidance. We published our real world evidence framework, which identifies when such data can be used, and describes best practice for planning, conducting and reporting real world evidence studies.

We’re continuing to support cancer patients to get access to promising new treatments more quickly via the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) when further data is needed before NICE can recommend them for routine use in the NHS. This summer, a new breast cancer treatment we recommended for the CDF became the 100th treatment to be funded through the CDF and nearly 18,000 patients have been registered to receive a CDF treatment this year alone. The launch of the Innovative Medicines Fund this year promises to help us ensure patients can benefit from early access to potentially life-saving new non-cancer medicines too – including cutting-edge gene therapies.

2023 and beyond…

As we move forward into 2023, we will build on the impact we’ve had this year. We’ll focus on horizon-scanning and deepening our relationships with key partners to ensure we’re concentrating in on the topics that matter most.

And, behind the scenes, we’ll continue to work at pace to align our methods and processes - so we’re operating efficiently to produce the streamlined products and services our users tell us they need.

Thank you and warm wishes for the festive season

I would like to thank our staff, chairman and board who have set these new processes in motion, while continuing with our core role of producing guidance. As ever, I would also like to thank all our dedicated independent committees and system partners, on whose vital support we depend.

Wishing you warm wishes for a very happy and healthy festive season.

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