There is no Northern Ireland equivalent to England’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), or the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG). In practice, most NICE decisions are implemented locally, meaning that a positive NICE decision should lead to reimbursement in Northern Ireland. Though this should not affect a brand’s overarching UK launch and communications strategy, it is important to know the local stakeholder bodies that operate in Northern Ireland and how they engage with NICE and the National Health Service (NHS).
Northern Ireland’s Payer Stakeholders
In Northern Ireland, the NHS is known as Health and Social Care (HSC). It provides health services and medicines free of charge to residents. These services are delivered by five HSC trusts, distributed by region: Belfast, South Eastern, Southern, Northern, and Western.
Since 2006, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (HPSS), a part of HSC, reached a formal arrangement in which it reviews NICE decisions to determine whether they are locally applicable. Any required amendments are made, and the decision then ratified and reflected by local HSC trusts. The policy methodology, however, states that it is not a reassessment of NICE evidence but rather a proofing.
Important Points to Keep in Mind
There is no separate Health Technology Appraisal (HTA) body in Northern Ireland that assesses medicines for use within the HSC. Northern Ireland essentially adopts NICE guidance after confirming it is applicable locally, despite NICE not formally considering Northern Ireland when developing its guidance.
Implications for Industry
For the purposes of reimbursement, you may consider Northern Ireland to be similar to a region of England in that it will mainly adopt NICE guidance and has no set, national methodology for conducting HTA in the absence of NICE guidance. However, awareness of the local context and identification of stakeholders that apply NICE guidance across the UK will help ensure smoother product launch and uptake.
The GLOBALHealthPR team has years of experience across the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union, and can offer valuable insights to your marketing, communications and market access teams.
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