Greater Manchester launches enhanced service for sickle cell patients

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Greater Manchester is enhancing the treatment of sickle cell disease, which will mean more patients will receive automated red blood cell exchange, providing equitable care to all patients regardless of the time of day they present at the hospital.

The move to 24/7 automated red cell exchange provision will reduce risks experienced by the patient, improving their safety and experience.

NICE Medical Technologies Guidance MTG28 is one of the technologies supported by the NHS England MedTech Funding Mandate policy in 2022/23. It describes the Spectra Optia Apheresis System which enables the automated red cell exchange for sickle cell patients.

Spectra Optia is an alternative to manual red cell exchange, providing many benefits for patients, clinicians and the provider. Patients presenting as emergencies can now receive the same high standard of care as routine patients, with benefits including reduced time in hospital, improving the patient experience, and more effective treatment, with a reduced risk associated with manual exchange such as strokes.

The creation of the MTG28 National Working Group, led by Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, brings together stakeholders from NHS England’s Specialised Commissioning and MTFM policy teams, NHS Supply Chain, NHS Blood & Transplant and the AHSN Network to agree how to use the MTFM policy to improve patient access to Spectra Optia. The model developed for the Greater Manchester region is a concept that would reduce inequality of access to optimal sickle cell care across the NHS if adopted elsewhere.

These improvements to the patient pathway not only benefit those being treated for sickle cell disease, but also impacts Greater Manchester’s local health and care system; with improved patient-flow for hospitals and the need for on-call registrars no longer being a requirement.

The approved business case involves collaboration between the adult haemoglobinopathy service of Manchester Royal Infirmary and NHS Blood and Transplant, who are contracted to provide the emergency automated red cell exchanges for patients across Greater Manchester, in addition to a portion of elective care.

As a result of this collaboration, all eligible people with sickle cell disease across Greater Manchester will now receive guaranteed automated red cell exchange, replacing a previously uncertain ad-hoc service.

Health Innovation Manchester has worked with Manchester Royal Infirmary, NHS England, the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), NHS Blood and Transplant, and Yorkshire and Humber AHSN to approve this business case, and implement this innovative treatment into Greater Manchester’s local health and care system.

This work is delivered as part of the MedTech Funding Mandate policy, which is delivered in partnership with AHSNs nationally. This proof-of-concept work will be used as the blueprint to improve automated red cell exchange services across England through 2022/23 and 2023/24.

Dr Joe Sharif, Consultant Haematologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said: “I am thrilled that our business case has been approved for automated red cell exchange. This is a life-saving treatment in sickle cell disease and our collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant will ensure patients with sickle cell across our region have access to this vital service at all times.”

Mary Aziz, Programme Development Lead at Health Innovation Manchester, said: “I am really excited about the future for people with sickle cell disease. The MedTech Funding Mandate has opened the door for eligible patients to receive the highest standard of care. I am grateful to all those involved in the Spectra Optia National Working Group which enthusiastically received Manchester’s case, forever changing the way these patients here receive care.”

Harriet Smith, Programme Manager at Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, said: “The success of the Manchester business case has allowed us to understand how Trusts could expand their local apheresis services; we can now utilise the MTFM to unlock further funding across England, to help address regional variation in care.”

Teresa Baines, Nursing Head of Therapeutic Services, NHSBT, said: “We have been working closely with many trusts to find solutions to help the NHS to provide this life saving and life improving treatment to all eligible patients. It is a relief to us that we can now provide patients in the Manchester region a safe service and will develop bespoke models with any trust that require help to treat patients who currently do not have access to red cell exchange.”

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