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The Medical Technologies Advisory Committee (MTAC) is the driver of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Medical Technologies Evaluation Programme (MTEP). This aims to identify novel devices and diagnostics with plausible claims for advantages to patients and/or to the NHS. If evaluation supports the claims made by manufacturers for their products then their use will be promoted by NICE guidance. Typically, medical technologies guidance will state that ‘the case for adoption is supported by the evidence’ and specify the advantages and the cost savings of adopting the product, compared with current management. The guidance may also recommend specified research and the programme has capacity to foster research into promising technologies.
The MTEP considers all kinds of medical devices and diagnostics. These include genetic tests used for a medical purpose, software and certain other products, such as those produced by tissue engineering. Its design involved extensive consultation with a great variety of interested parties, including manufacturers, clinicians, commissioners of healthcare, health service managers and patients.
The programme deals with single technologies (products) and does not undertake evaluation of whole ‘classes’ of similar technologies. The aim is to provide guidance relatively quickly—ideally for novel devices and diagnostics that offer a ‘step-change’ in management. It is not practical to perform evaluations including a range of technologies (precisely which ones? what about those coming to market thereafter? will all the manufacturers wish to be involved?) and to deliver clear guidance in a reasonable time frame. However, products may be ‘routed’ (see below) into other NICE programmes that do evaluate multiple technologies.
Some clinicians have found the ‘single product’ principle difficult to accept. It is different to what they have expected from NICE in the past, but it has been introduced with a new aim in mind. Clinicians have been concerned about …