The NHS needs “deep, trusting” partnerships with industry to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge health innovation, Baroness Nicola Blackwood has said.

Speaking the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI) UK Market Conference earlier this month, Blackwood, who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, said the UK needs to be “relentless” in its drive to ensure its place at the cutting edge of health innovation.

To achieve this, the government’s life science sector needs to continue supporting healthtech SMEs to scale up.

“We are looking at how healthtech companies can access the finances they need and creating a finance innovation ecosystem which promotes collaboration between the NHS and industry, to ensure new technologies meet NHS priorities and therefore have a ready-made market within the UK,” she said.

“My ambition is for the NHS to build genuine, deep, trusting partnerships with industry that create long term value – and not to just rely on antiquated buyer-seller relationships.

“We want the UK to be the best place in the world to develop, test and launch innovative technologies, helping NHS patients to get faster access to new treatments.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is reviewing its methods of approach towards innovation, in consultation with industry, she said, adding that the body would have “unflinching” political support to deliver reform.

The recent launch of NHSX and the expansion of the Accelerated Access Collaborative aims to create a flexible innovation ecosystem and improve joined up care.

Blackwood said she was “more confident than ever” that the NHS would become one of the most pro-innovation health systems in the world.

“Testing is particularly important for healthtech. By testing a product in a real-world setting, innovators can generate the evidence they need to convince commissioners to adopt it,” she added.

“This is why we have committed to develop a globally leading testing infrastructure within the UK in both the Long-Term Plan and the life science sector deals.

“The combination of a healthtech funding mandate and a globally leading testing infrastructure will ensure the best new innovations get into the NHS, and to patients, faster.

“It is a big challenge – but one that we can deliver.”

A wave of new treatments and tests were announced earlier this month as part of the NHS’ Innovation and Technology Payment programme, which is fast-tracking the roll-out of the latest technology across the country.

They included a hand-held device that delivers electrical stimulation to block pain signals that cause cluster headaches and a blood test to help rule out pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.