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Break down barriers to partnerships to change the lives of millions, say NHS Confederation and the ABPI

Partnerships between the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry can change the lives of millions of people across the country, according to a joint report from the NHS Confederation and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Partnering with purpose: How integrated care systems and industry can work better together.’ [1], is published today alongside a library of more than 100 successful partnerships. [2]

The report was compiled following a series of webinars involving 60 NHS leaders representing 13 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). In total, 80 senior NHS and industry leaders attended.

All too often, effective NHS-industry partnerships can be held back by persistent practical and cultural barriers, and these must be overcome if such partnerships are to deliver their full positive potential.

Practical barriers included structural variations in different integrated care systems (ICSs) and companies, and an associated lack of clarity on the ‘point of entry’ for both NHS and industry organisations seeking to build effective partnerships.

Cultural barriers included a degree of mistrust and anxiety in the NHS around working with industry, which can discourage innovation and new practices.

NHS and industry leaders agreed that the benefits of partnerships were significant, including better patient outcomes, reduced operational pressures and more preventative care.

Sarah Walter, Director of the ICS Network at the NHS Confederation said:

“In the NHS we are experiencing some of the most severe pressures we’ve ever faced in 75 years and cross-sector partnerships can help in a variety of ways. This includes bringing in additional capacity and introducing different skills and areas of expertise. 

“However, there are further opportunities to capitalise on industry expertise in helping to solve local challenges alongside the NHS, and we want to support this.

“If we can realise the full potential of partnership working, we have a major opportunity to benefit patients, the NHS and communities across the country.”

Brian Duggan, Strategic Partnerships Director at the ABPI said:

“The ABPI’s case study library published today has more than 100 examples of positive partnerships between the NHS and industry. These projects have made a real difference to patients or helped NHS organisations save time and valuable resources.

“People who work in companies are committed to improving patient outcomes, helping the NHS and tackling health inequalities. As an industry we want to support ICSs, help build capacity across the system, and be equal partners in solving the health challenges we face as a nation.” 

The report shows there is a real opportunity for ICSs to stimulate new partnerships as a result of their convening power to bring together ‘anchor institutions’ such as NHS organisations, councils, community groups and industry.

These partnerships can improve local population health, tackle health inequalities, and boost local economies.

NHS Confederation has an ongoing programme of health economic partnerships and is supporting ICSs to develop and implement anchor approaches and impactful industry partnerships. [3]

As a result of the masterclass series and report, the NHS Confederation and the ABPI will bring NHS and industry leaders together next year to develop practical guidance for partnerships. This will help optimise pathways of care and improve patient outcomes and NHS efficiency.

Another priority for action was for ICS leaders to use evidence of successful partnerships as demonstrated in the ABPI’s library of case studies to stimulate further cross-sector collaboration. [4]

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Last modified: 24 November 2023

Last reviewed: 24 November 2023

[1] NHS Confederation/the ABPI, Partnering with purpose: How integrated care systems and industry can work better together, November 2023. The report summarises four masterclasses on partnerships with industry and NHS leaders.

[2] The ABPI, case studies of NHS/industry partnerships, November 2023, https://www.abpi.org.uk/partnerships/working-with-the-nhs/nhs-partnership-case-studies-library-key-aims/

[3] NHS Confederation, Health Economic Partnerships, accessed October 2023, https://www.nhsconfed.org/topic/health-economic-partnerships

[4] The four priorities for action are:



Health Innovation Networks have a role in supporting ICS organisations to improve local economies by strengthening their positions as anchor institutions through deeper cross-sector partnerships.

ICS leaders, the NHS Confederation and the ABPI

The NHS Confederation and the ABPI should develop practical guidance to operationalise partnerships that optimise pathways of care at primary, secondary and system levels, with system leaders supporting these efforts.


The NHS Confederation and the ABPI

Support ICS leaders to utilise evidence of successful partnerships and evidence hosted on the ABPI’s library of case studies to stimulate further cross-sector collaboration.


ICS leaders and the ABPI

Support NHS and industry leaders to enhance their understanding of partnership operating frameworks and sources of assurance, including the ABPI Code of Practice.


The NHS Confederation, NHS leaders, ICS leaders and the ABPI

About the NHS Confederation

We are the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The members we represent employ 1.5 million staff, care for more than 1 million patients a day and control £150 billion of public expenditure. We promote collaboration and partnership working as the key to improving population health, delivering high-quality care and reducing health inequalities. For more information visit www.nhsconfed.org

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.