03 May, 2019

‘Celtic connections’ alliance celebrates early success

Karen MacPherson

Having recently entered a ‘Celtic connections’ strategic alliance with our equivalent national bodies in Scotland and Ireland, we’re happy to report that progress is already being made.

The linkage is improving the ways we deliver a strategic approach to the identification, appraisal and adoption of new health technologies within our respective health and social care systems.

Karen MacPherson has joined Health Technology Wales (HTW) on secondment from the Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG) and, in her own words, reflected on the opportunity to work in Wales…

“I was notified of a secondment opportunity to work with Health Technology Wales last year and after applying, I was successfully appointed to post in November 2018. The role is primarily focusing on Advanced Therapy Medicinal (ATMP) products, a new and rapidly developing therapeutic area.

I’d been keen to exercise more programme leadership and to develop my understanding of Health Technology Assessment (HTA). A further goal was to strengthen links between Health Technology Wales and SHTG as part of the newly agreed ‘Celtic connections’ strategic alliance. The secondment has enabled of all these objectives to be met and offered additional benefits, too.

Working on the ATMP project has enabled me to increase my knowledge of this complex area through attendance at presentations and extensive reading. It’s allowed me work with and build contacts within staff from external agencies, both within the NHS and academia. Links include the Welsh Blood Service, other Welsh hospital trusts and the Universities of Bangor and Birmingham.

I’ve had the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in gathering and analysing qualitative data on patient and public engagement, a new methodological area for me. This has included completion of an online course in using Nvivo software, attending a one day university workshop, reading and self-study on focus groups, and arranging meetings with key contacts involved in public engagement.

Karen MacPherson As the ATMP work is managed externally, I’ve been able to take a lead in shaping the delivery of the qualitative work programme. Operating in this dedicated ATMP role has enabled me to share the learning with SHTG and Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

In terms of HTA work, I’ve taken on the production of an evidence review and been able to evaluate the differences and similarities to SHTG. The particular topic I worked on was of simultaneous interest to SHTG and I’ve acted as a liaison, sharing information both ways and saving time.

I’ve become familiar with Health Technology Wales’ evidence review work programme and shared learning both ways on impact evaluation and production of Standard Operating Procedures. Often these benefits have come about opportunistically, through simply being around when a particular conversation has been taking place.

Both SHTG and Health Technology Wales are involved in the EUnetHTA project, so I’ve been able to support their access to EUnetHTA projects and information. I’ve also participated in EUnetHTA work, such as attending regular update meetings on behalf of both organisations.

It’s been helpful to discuss methodological and process challenges from SHTG with Health Technology Wales staff and look for shared working to solve these. I’m going to test some horizon scanning approaches from SHTG within Health Technology Wales, and I’m discussing tests of deliverable methods for moving from evidence to recommendations.

Health Technology Wales commissioned a training session on the NICE META-Tool training, which has added to my personal development. This tool is of interest to SHTG. In addition, I am attending the NICE annual conference in May 2019.

Lastly, but by no means least, thinking of softer skills and benefits, I feel the secondment has been successful in developing my confidence through working in an unfamiliar environment on a new topic, and meeting a new group of people. I’ve built relationships which will continue in future and facilitate information sharing. Exposure to a whole new context, where for example everything has to be translated into Welsh, has broadened my view of healthcare systems in the UK.

On reflecting what has worked well and what could be improved, spending time physically in the office is definitely important and a week per month is probably the minimum amount of time for this. As the ATMP work sits somewhat externally to Health Technology Wales, I initially felt a bit isolated but being involved in team meetings has helped me feel more part of the group. Objectives could’ve been more definitive but unexpected changes in the remit, as a result of external factors, were the main reason for this.

Overall, the whole experience an enjoyable one for me and the staff from Health Technology Wales have been uniformly welcoming and helpful.”