Public Policy Projects https://publicpolicyprojects.com/ Public Policy Projects Thu, 01 Dec 2022 12:03:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 UK government must deliver its promises for carbon capture storage https://publicpolicyprojects.com/latest-from-ppp/uk-government-must-deliver-its-promises-for-carbon-capture-storage/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/latest-from-ppp/uk-government-must-deliver-its-promises-for-carbon-capture-storage/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2022 12:03:12 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=10047 New PPP report calls upon the UK government to deliver on immediate plans for CCS, develop engineered carbon dioxide removals to put the ‘net’ into net zero and build a world-class UK supply chain with sustained future deployment.  

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A new report from Public Policy Projects (PPP) is calling on the UK government to focus on the implementation of carbon capture storage (CCS) projects to meet its net zero targets and finds infrastructure as the key physical enabler for industry to progress. Several European countries have increased their attention on CCS during the past year and have made significant progress. Without swift and rapid acceleration of its deployment strategy, especially infrastructure, the UK government risk losing CCS markets to European nations

The report addresses barriers to wider deployment of CCS projects in the UK, while also focusing on wider issues surrounding their financing, regulation and policy. It’s chaired by sector leaders Jon Gibbins, Professor of CCS at the University of Sheffield who has worked on energy engineering, fuel conversion and CCS for 45 years, and Niall Mac Dowell, Professor in Energy Systems Engineering at Imperial College London. The report is authored by Francesco Tamilia, Senior Policy Analyst for PPP. 

The technologies used to capture, use or permanently store carbon dioxide (CO2) resulting from human activity are collectively known as carbon capture, utilisation and storage, or CCUS. Leading climate and energy bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) have all outlined the crucial importance of these technologies in achieving net zero transitions.  

CCS technologies play unique roles in achieving decarbonisation in hard-to-abate industries such as cement, steel and chemicals. They are also needed to deliver carbon dioxide removals from the atmosphere with permanent geological storage, both to offer a route for all current emitters to atmosphere to achieve net zero by recapturing their CO2 and, very likely, in the longer term, to deliver an extended period of net-negative global emissions to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration to a sustainable level. 

The UK government has committed to capturing 47Mt of CO2 by 2050, requiring a major upscale of current carbon capture operations. Thus, there is the need for a robust deployment plan to encourage adoption of CCS.  

The report has also found that private investment is pivotal in scaling up CCS infrastructure, but the government’s role should not be diminished. It must optimally use its policy toolbox to build strong revenue support frameworks for CCS projects and the utilisation of debt markets, thereby de-risking the costs entailed in developing CCS technology. 

The report, entitled Carbon capture and storage in the UK: Infrastructure to unlock investment, was developed in partnership with Third Way, a US-based think tank, and draws on a series of features, case studies, webinars, interviews and roundtables carried out throughout 2022. Throughout the report’s development, PPP has consulted cross-sector stakeholders in the UK from private and public sectors, as well as senior leaders in several countries including Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the Climate attaché to the EU Delegation to the UK, Emilien Gasc. 

Jon Gibbins and Niall Mac Dowell, Co-Chairs of the report said: The UK alone cannot avoid dangerous climate change by cutting its emissions to net zero, or beyond. However, by taking the opportunity now on offer to actually ‘put steel in the ground’ for CCS projects, we cannot only enhance current and future UK employment prospects and underpin future energy diversity, and hence energy security, but we can also make very material contributions to leading the future global market in CCS and CDR with permanent storage, that is essential to underpin successful global action.” 

Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Chair of Environment APPG said:  “In order to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, it is clear that carbon capture and storage will come to play a pivotal role. Beyond 2050, to keep global temperature rises at a minimum, we will also need a significant expansion in both CCS and direct air capture (DAC) technologies. Both the UNCCC and the IEA have been clear that while our focus to achieve net zero must depend on the wider deployment of renewable power, we need to continue to expand and invest in future technologies that can aid up to 50 per cent of future emissions reductions. This means making strategic long-term investment decisions in carbon capture and storage. The UK has been a global leader with its net zero industrial hubs, however the rest of the world is rapidly catching up, especially with the US Inflation Reduction Act that has prioritised investment in CCS and DAC.  

 “This PPP report, which is the result of a commission of leading authorities in the CCS industry, provides important insight into how future investment into carbon management might progress to provide certainty for the future deployment of carbon capture and storage” 

Ruth Herbert, CEO of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association (CCSA) said:  I am pleased to see that PPP has recognised in their report that CCUS is an integral part of reaching net zero and that the government must act now to deliver on its vital infrastructure developments. We are on the cusp of seeing the UK emerge as a world leader in CCUS, however this will only happen with collaboration and support from Government.”

Download a copy of the report here, for further information about PPP’s net zero policy programme please contact francesco.tamilia@publicpolicyprojects.com.  


Recommendations:  

1. Deliver on immediate plans for CCS, especially infrastructure

The government must deliver on its plans to support CO2 pipeline transportation and offshore geological storage infrastructure development for the three Track 1 CCS clusters, HyNet, East Coast and follow on infrastructure such as the Scottish Cluster (which is also the Track 1 reserve cluster) and Humber Zero. This infrastructure is the key physical enabler for industry to progress the initial deployment of CO2 capture projects and limited time is available to take UK CCS capacity from nothing to somewhere in the order of 100 MtCO2/yr by 2050. 

The government must also see through, to a successful conclusion, the undertakings made on funding support for CCS infrastructure, and the extensive work on business models for the different types of CO2 capture. Unless a reasonable return can be expected on investments, industry cannot be expected to commit to the construction and long-term operation of these facilities. These support measures are essential for the ‘first-of-a-kind’ projects now being contemplated; in the longer-term, other mechanisms, such a ‘carbon takeback obligation’ on fossil producers, may come into play. 

To justify government support, CCS projects should be rigorously tested against credible counterfactuals to ensure technical viability, value for money, affordability, contribution to security of supply and compliance with UK carbon budgets and nationally determined contributions. Investment should be targeted to support the preservation and creation of jobs, and to enhance productivity nationwide. 

2. Develop engineered carbon dioxide removals to put the ‘net’ into net zero

The government must ensure that CO2 removal from the air and permanent storage is also developed, taking advantage of the shared cluster infrastructure. While this will have higher costs than direct CO2 capture and storage from point sources it is an essential technology for putting the ‘net’ into ‘net zero’. In particular, because of the shared infrastructure and technologies, engineered CDR technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture with carbon storage (DACCS) should be treated as an integral part of CCS activities in government administration and policy making rather than being grouped with nature-based offsets and removals. 

 3. Build a world-class UK supply chain with sustained future deployment

If the UK is to develop a successful domestic CCS supply chain that can subsequently compete globally, clear government policy and signalling is required, particularly around support for future deployment on transport and storage, including shipping, and further CO2 capture projects. This will ensure that indigenous manufacturing capacity is developed, and that design and construction teams can be retained intact between projects. Finally, recent threats to the UK’s energy security have made domestic fossil fuel production a much higher priority. However, without full CCS with all the CO2 permanently stored, including carbon dioxide removal from the air as necessary, to give net zero GHG emissions, continued fossil fuel use, or methane production and conversion to hydrogen, cannot be consistent with the UK’s 2050 net zero target. 

 

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Your turn to ‘U-turn’ on antibiotics, Thérèse Coffey https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/your-turn-u-turn-antibiotics-therese-coffey/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/your-turn-u-turn-antibiotics-therese-coffey/#respond Thu, 20 Oct 2022 10:08:48 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9755 Increasing the accessibility of antibiotics is a high-risk, low-reward policy that will cost both lives and money.

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Over the course of the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October, major news outlets began to feature a reoccurring headline: Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, had admitted to ‘sharing prescription medicines with others’. A confession which sparked outrage.

As summarised by the NHS “antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading. But they do not work for everything.” They are vital in treating certain conditions and protecting against infection during chemotherapy, caesarean sections and other common surgeries. However, if taken when not necessary, they encourage harmful bacteria living within an individual to become resistant to antibiotic treatment. This will ultimately result in antibiotics having no effect when truly needed, placing patients at true risk.

In short, there is an incredibly compelling reason why the NHS does not hand out antibiotics ‘over the counter’.


Fluctuating political attention: An increased risk of anti-microbial resistance (AMR)

AMR poses one of the greatest health threats to humanity at present. As argued by the former Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, “anti-microbial resistant could kill us before the climate crisis does” – an incredibly daunting prospect.

This threat, however, is by no means new. In 2014, then Prime Minister David Cameron, commissioned a review into the increase in drug-resistant infections. Chair of the review, economist Jim O’Neill, forecasted that by 2050 AMR could put at risk 10 million lives per year and accumulate a cost of $100 trillion in economic output globally – more than the total economic cost of cancer. Arguably led by the UK, the world had finally begun to pay attention to the threat.

Following this, in 2018, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, published their report, Antimicrobial resistance. Further highlighting the risk posed by AMR, the inquiry reinforced the messaging of the O’Neill review. By 2018, AMR infections had claimed “at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US alone”, figures which were “set to rise dramatically over the next 30 years”.

In January 2019, the Government published its ‘five-year national action plan’ to tackle AMR. It had begun to receive serious attention. Nonetheless, by the dawn of the Johnson administration in mid-2019, its level of political importance had seemingly diminished. This attention only dwindled further as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What had begun to shape into a serious front-line area of policy for the Government, quickly moved to the background, and few updates have since been announced or championed. The current threat posed by AMR is therefore a serious, but not fully understood, one.


NHS impact and long-term cost

During the reviews and inquiries conducted to date, the need to increase funding is a repeated recommendation. The Health and Social Care Committee highlighted that “Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, told our inquiry quite simply that if action is not taken to address this growing threat, ‘modern medicine will be lost’.” Additionally, the then Deputy Chief Scientific Officer of the ABPI, Dr Sheuli Porkess, “suggested that AMR should be a key priority in the NHS 10-year plan.”

While the 10-year plan did address AMR, like much within politics, its importance was understandably eclipsed by the pandemic. However, we should not fall victim to letting the urgent crowd out the important.

While impacted by a series of unforeseeable events, the looming long-term impact of AMR has arguably only grown. A threat, which at the time of conducting the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry had generated “an estimated cost to the NHS of £180 million per year”, an amount which has most likely grown since then.

With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s reversal of the mini-budget and likely spending cuts looming over Government departments and affiliated organisations, facilitating the spread of AMR would be far from ideal.

In the face of an already overworked and overwhelmed NHS workforce, increasing the need of care for those suffering from drug-resistant infections holds the potential to be the tipping point for many across the service.


Another U-turn?

Following the revelation that Coffey hopes to increase accessibility to antibiotics, many across the health service turned to social media to share their frustrations. Labelled as “utter recklessness”, “moronic” and “nuts”, amongst others, feedback for the proposal was far from positive.

Owing to the fact that since the 1980s, no new class of antibiotics have been discovered or made available for routine treatment, promoting and investing in new and rapid diagnostics to offset the use of antibiotics will actively reduce unnecessary use for example.

Increasing the ease of access to antibiotics will most likely lead to an increase in their use, ultimately leading to an increase in drug-resistance infections, which will result in long-term economic impacts upon the health service and wider society.

In an ever-more repeating trend of ‘U-turns’ amongst current Cabinet Ministers, owing to the response from health professionals and the impending risk posed by AMR, this is one which is highly advised. Without it, the estimated 65,000 people per year in the UK developing drug-resistant infections will only skyrocket.

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Shining a light on international collaboration in genomics: 1+ Million Genomics Initiative https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/shining-light-international-collaboration-genomics/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/shining-light-international-collaboration-genomics/#respond Wed, 12 Oct 2022 10:34:48 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9727 As the 1+ Million Genomes enters a new phase, it serves as a key example of how countries can collaborate to share their experiences and challenges in rolling out genomics within their healthcare systems.

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The 1+ Million Genomes (1+MG) Initiative is a Europe-based endeavour to ensure secure access to genomic and clinical data across Europe to boost personalised medicine and innovation. 24 countries across Europe became signatories of this initiative, pledging their involvement and signing up to a set of objectives, including:

  • Making appropriate technical infrastructure available across the EU, to ensure secure, federated access to genomic data
  • Clarifying the ethical and legal implications of the cross-border availability of genomes and ensuring their consideration in an implementation
  • Ensuring the general public and policy makers in Member States and signatory countries are well informed about genomics in order to ensure its uptake by healthcare systems

The year 2022 marks the point at which the initial design and testing phase of this initiative ends and the scale-up and sustainability phase commences and continues until 2027.


Entering a new phase in genomics

As a horizon project of 1+MG, the Beyond 1 Million Genomes (B1MG) project was set up to co-ordinate and support 1+MG in addition to creating prerequisites for a virtual cohort of genetic and clinical data across Europe and a long-term data infrastructure for providing access to data, on more than 1 million sequenced genomes (whole, exome and panel).

The three primary objectives of B1MG are as follows:

  1. To work with regional, national and European stakeholders to define the requirements for cross-border access to genomics and personalised medicine data
  2. To translate requirements for data quality, standards, technical infrastructure, and Ethical Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) into technical specifications and implementation guidelines
  3. To drive adoption of new infrastructure, provide guidance on development and economic impact in order to support long-term implementation

1+MG and B1MG have, to date, fostered collaboration between nations at speed and scale, allowing countries with established genomics infrastructure to participate in the scaling up of genomics infrastructure around Europe, promoting the exchange of ideas and expertise while continually engaging with policy and ethics. B1MG has developed a Maturity Level Model (MLM), which serves as a framework for countries to understand their level of maturity and align their progress in adopting genomic data within their healthcare systems.

To create an effective MLM, input from expert policy makers, legal aids, health professionals and managers from signatory countries was considered regarding best practice standards for genomics in healthcare. This allowed the development of a review framework for healthcare systems to evaluate effectiveness against these standards, to identify areas of improvement and to devise strategies for implementation.

To learn about challenges and solutions for implementation of genomics in healthcare, B1MG organised a series of Country Exchange Visits to the United Kingdom, Finland and Estonia to learn how they have implemented personalised medicine to date. These countries were chosen as hosts due to their highly developed genomics infrastructure and provide best practice examples to other participating nations. At these visits, flash talks were given by representatives from other signatory countries including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.


Reducing barriers to action

These visits shed light on the primary barriers to achieving collaborative data sharing between nations, allowing this working group to focus their efforts on addressing barriers that are applicable to many, if not all, participating nations as they attempt to realise the goals of 1+MG. A policy brief was drawn up summarising these barriers as described over the course of the country visits, citing the below as the key issues for implementation:

Patient and citizen engagement: trust and understanding are essential to facilitate engagement with genomic medicine, to procure informed consent for data sharing and to accept genomic medicine as a component of the healthcare system. The following was recommended:

  • Information programmes and communication campaigns to engage and inform citizens
  • Patient trust and willingness to participate should be monitored
  • Involve patient groups in all decisions and steps of strategy implementation
  • Ensure patient representation at the governance level of genomic efforts

Infrastructure and regulation in healthcare systems: not only is high-quality data essential to the success of genomics within healthcare, but safe and secure access to this data is essential and requires secure infrastructure to do so. The following was recommended:

  • Infrastructure with centralised governance and a robust ethical and legal framework must be created
  • Adequate investment in secure digital technologies and services is essential
  • Political and multi-stakeholder support is required, and should be facilitated through inter-departmental collaboration and inclusion of stakeholders across implementation stages
  • A standard genomic and health data management plan is required to facilitate data sharing at regional, national and international levels

Training and capacity building: to deliver genomics within healthcare to a high standard, specialist workforce is required. The following was recommended:

  • Tailor genomics programmes, providing online training for professionals with no or limited knowledge, testing and certifying their new knowledge and developing competency frameworks to assess the needs of existing workforce
  • Invest in developing genomics professionals (e.g. genetic counsellors and clinical geneticists), in addition to new professions, such as medical informaticians
  • Define the roles of these and other professionals

Building a sustainable ecosystem for genomics in healthcare: this focuses on the importance of collaboration between healthcare, industry and research for the benefit of society, healthcare and the health economy. The following was recommended:

  • Involve all stakeholders in discussing the legal framework required to promote innovation, foster trust and avoid data misuse
  • Create an umbrella structure to allow all stakeholders to share knowledge and support, in addition to coordinating research and clinical outcomes
  • Include industry input when conducting health economic evaluations
  • Embrace enablers of genomic medicine through legislation and government support

By giving a forum to Estonia, Finland and the United Kingdom, B1MG has provided a unique opportunity to the signatory European countries, whereby those with more established genomics ecosystems and infrastructures can share their expertise. B1MG is facilitating the exchange of information between countries, so that all signatories can benefit from the resources and experience of others and propel their genomics medicines initiatives forward at speed.

Because of this scale of collaboration, the findings from B1MG work have shed light on the barriers impacting most if not all jurisdictions as they aim to scale up their genomics infrastructure, allowing for all countries to work together to find solutions that not only benefit all stakeholders but all countries in their genomics rollout.

1+MG and B1MG recognise the importance of cross-sectoral involvement in achieving greater public trust, government and political support, implementation within healthcare and industry and research collaboration. This interdisciplinary approach also includes the ethical, legal and social implications of genomics and data sharing, which is essential to improve public engagement and trust, in addition to political support.

The approach of the 1+MG initiative is unique in the scale of its collaboration and serves as a key example of how countries across continents can come together to share their experiences and challenges in rolling out genomics within their healthcare systems.

Over the course of two years, Public Policy Projects has grown its Global Genomics Network, which aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas in a policy context. To date, it has done so by connecting representatives from countries in the infancy of their rollout of genomics within healthcare with representatives from countries with a more established genomic healthcare infrastructure.

The need for the work of 1+MG/B1MG is apparent from discussions among this network, where countries start from scratch in their implementation of genomics and encounter the same obstacles as many jurisdictions before them. Fostering a collaborative environment within genomics at a global scale has the potential to optimise the implementation of genomics in healthcare, reducing the time and resources needed for its rollout and providing patients with earlier access to personalised medicine.


 

This article was authored by ĺsla O’Connor, Policy Analyst at Public Policy Projects, following a meeting held on 5th May 2022 between PPP and 1+MG coordination group members.

Support for this article has been provided by: Kate Orviss and Mark Bale (PPP) and, Ruben Kok, Astrid Vicente, Giselle Kerry, and, Serena Scollen (1+MG).

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Innovation pathways for the consumer https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-pathways-for-the-consumer-2/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-pathways-for-the-consumer-2/#respond Mon, 10 Oct 2022 11:05:01 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9710 The fourth and final roundtable of the Innovation in the Food Supply Chain series.

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AgriTech will play an essential role in the transition towards a more secure and carbon-efficient food system. However, a lack of consumer trust currently poses a blocker to the integration of new technologies into the production of food.

According to the 2020 EIT Food Trust Report, consumer trust in the agrifood industry has recently increased in the EU, but not significantly. As the report noted, only 40 per cent of EU consumers believe the products that they are purchasing are ‘authentic’ (meaning “they are what they say they are and include the correct, original information on the label”) and only 30 per cent are confident that those products have been produced sustainably.1

At the same time, however, consumers are growing more conscious of sustainability when making food choices. In the same survey, 76 per cent of respondents said they felt “a moral obligation to use environmentally friendly products,” and another 60 per cent reported that they tried to choose sustainable goods over those that are not.

Operating in a similar market, and still utilising significant portions of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the UK’s food system faces a similar challenge to their EU counterparts in terms of improving consumer trust. However, a growing desire for sustainability presents an opportunity for the sector to emphasises AgriTech’s utility as a net zero driver to the public.

At the fourth roundtable of the Innovation in the Food Supply Chain series, contributors were asked to consider the unique moment the AgriFood sector finds itself in, and how the sector could better serve the needs and concerns of consumers. Discussing how stakeholders in the innovation pathway can engender greater consumer trust in their products, better understand consumer need and platform the net zero utility of AgriTech innovation, roundtable participants outlined several key considerations for policymakers outlined below.


Learning from the past

Many of the controversies that have surrounded the integration of new technologies into food production have a common theme – a sense among consumers that new changes were being imposed upon them, but not to their benefit. For instance, as one contributor to the roundtable session noted, the sense of distrust that surrounded genetically modified crops in the 1990s was largely spurred by an overwhelming feeling that the transition to GM foods would deliver negligible benefits to consumers.

Clarifying the benefit of new technologies to consumers should, accordingly, be prioritised. Amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, and a growing consumer appetite for sustainable options, the AgriFood sector arguably has an obvious and acute set of consumer needs to cater to. As one contributor noted, “this summer has been a turning point for many people. I think the prospect of having a degree of insurance against climate change and climate shocks in the food production system is a very positive thing. But it’s something that we haven’t really talked about – and how we can use AgriTech to provide this insurance hasn’t been very well articulated.”

However, as another contributor noted, it is key to ensure that the sector does not come to think of consumers as a homogenous unit. “It’s not a silver bullet that’s going to do all this. It’s going to be a range of different messages that we get through.” While some consumer groups are likely to be swayed by AgriTech’s ability to deliver health improvements, others may find food security or the AgriFood sector’s emissions to be more pressing concerns. The sector’s messaging on the benefits of AgriTech should, accordingly, target different demographics – and seek to emphasise its utility as a solution to rising costs, climate change, and food security to do so.

It is also key, however, that outreach also focuses on leveraging AgriTech’s ability to deliver benefits to the consumer as an individual. As one contributor noted, “if you make [products] tastier, if you make them cheaper and if you make them with a clear benefit to the consumer,” then you can more clearly demonstrate the value of AgriTech to a wider audience. However, it should be noted that the making of health claims is strictly regulated. Accordingly, messaging on the benefits of AgriTech should also take a keen focus on individual interests and health – and should seek to outline these potential benefits in their messaging to al demographics.


Knowledge-sharing

There is a significant gap in the public’s knowledge of the various technologies subsumed within the concept of AgriTech, and their impacts (existing and future) on the food system. As one contributor noted, referencing the most presently active area of debate for AgriTech, “the vast majority of consumers have never heard of [gene-edited products], they don’t know what they are, [and] they are very uncertain about them.”

The government’s precision breeding bill, for example, has amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to clarify the distinction between precision bred organisms (PBOs) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – but there remains a great deal of uncertainty amongst the public regarding the difference between a GMO and a PBO. While several contributors noted that “the government has done a very good job on the bill itself,” greater clarity must be provided on what a PBO is, how it differentiates from a GMO, and how creation of PBOs can deliver benefits to both individuals and communities by “providing affordable, nutritious food in the most sustainable way.”

Groups such as Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G) have suggested that this definition lacks scientific rigour and should this concern not be addressed, there is a legitimate risk that the precision breeding bill will fail to assuage public concerns over the inclusion of genetic technologies in food production – and could thereby further harm consumer trust in the AgriFood sector.

It is therefore key that consumers better understand the distinction between GMOs and PBOs, and how genetic technologies already impact the UK’s food system more generally. Almost all cotton on the market, for instance, is derived from GM plants and a significant portion of livestock feed includes GM ingredients – and outreach should explore opportunities to use other working examples of technologies in existing food and agricultural systems to highlight potential benefits to consumers. It is also essential that communications with consumers represent the complex uses and implications of these technologies as effectively as possible. As one contributor explained, “we’re going to have to have more of these conversations with consumers and with supermarkets to make sure that we’re not oversimplifying in ways that reduce trust.”


Building trust through regulation

Numerous contributors emphasised the need for improved public outreach – however there was some discussion over who would be responsible for its oversight. It may seem that regulatory agencies are best placed to provide clarity to consumers on new products. However, if these agencies are perceived to be abdicating their duties regarding food safety, consumer trust could be further eroded.

As one contributor noted, the ultimate role “of the FSA is to establish, and advocate for, consumer needs, consumer views, and incorporate them into the information and advice they provide to ministers.” As such, while contributors agreed that the provision of clear and consistent safety measures was a key component of retaining consumer trust, many expressed a view that safety measures were more of a ‘hygiene factor’ than a selling point. Instead, many suggested that customers would be more likely to purchase, and trust, foods produced with new technologies if the health and environmental benefits of the new production process were clearer.

However, regulators have a key role to play in the implementation of new technologies, nonetheless. For instance, on the matter of labelling, it is key that the FSA and the sector continue to critically assess the impact of their decisions on consumer perceptions. For instance, as one contributor noted, while labelling PBOs may initially improve consumer trust in the AgriFood industry, this may entrench perceptions that certain technologies are not safe. “Is it in the consumer interests for the regulators to reinforce perceptions by labelling not only this, but perhaps a whole list of other future new technologies that might be coming along? Especially when, if you probe a little more and delve a little deeper, you can start to understand why it is that consumers are feeling uncertain and what things you can do to build trust.”

Regulators should, accordingly, seek to prioritise the strengthening of relationships with consumer groups and community organisations to better understand how to leverage and develop their status as a trusted safety authority most effectively. Lessons should be taken from responses to safety concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic – and the opportunity to build on the pandemic’s impact on the profile of genetic innovation should also be capitalised on. As one contributor illustrated, “we have seen a change and we actually think Covid helped.” Continuing, however, they noted that, “when we asked people questions about just GMOs or gene editing, there’s still quite a negative perception and a lot of misunderstandings.”


The private sector

Contributors commented that while public outreach led by government departments would be an essential part of any information campaign, there was also a need for the private sector to take a leadership position on outreach. As one stated, “as a funding agency who spends a lot of money on funding the science, we are putting, almost half of our money now into public education awareness… if we really want these innovations to be taken up, we actually have to have the stakeholders driving it and doing that education and engagement.”

There is a particularly important role for retailers and supermarkets to play. As one contributor noted, “we need to reinvent agriculture on a sustainable pathway, and the extent to which supermarkets support that narrative will play a huge role.” Consumers largely interact with the AgriFood sector through the mediation of retailers, and it follows that the latter’s support will be essential to improving trust in the sector. As another contributor argued, “if we go back to the GM debate of the 1990s, the supermarkets took a position and from that point forward, the debate was finished.”

Working with supermarkets to promote and sustain innovation is, however, complicated by the relatively short-term planning of retailers. As one contributor noted, “we can’t really engage the supermarkets until we’re much nearer the market in Britain.” Retailers, like consumers, will generally prioritise products that they can utilise in the near term. “So, if you’re a technology developer and you’re looking at beginning a project that may produce results in 5-to-10 years, [retailers] don’t have time for you.” Similarly for consumers, “it’s very hard for consumers to engage with the product until you’ve at least got it in trials and at least a couple of years of commercialisation.”

While innovators and distributors alike can also contribute to improved communication with consumers, AgriFood’s ability, as a sector, to reframe its communications and engage with consumers more effectively is somewhat limited by how many moving parts are involved in the sector and how long it takes to adapt. One contributor explained that, like the energy market, “agriculture needs decades to adapt.” As such, while there are significant opportunities for the private sector to cater to evolving demand and an emergent “consensus around the need for change focused on responding to climate change and on food prices,” there is a strong likelihood that the private sector will be too slow to respond without government guidance and co-ordination.

The UK would therefore benefit from a government-led initiative to provide some form of an advanced market commitment (AMC) and extend the time horizons for AgriTech projects. This should also include a review of existing land management strategies, which may involve the UK government emulating the ethos of AgriTech land strategies such as British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Use Regulation in Canada.

This initiative should also seek to develop improved sustainability metrics and streamlined methods of reporting. “Giving the industry and supply chains a better means of ranking innovation and technology by its impact on sustainability goals, and generally helping that conversation to be more scientific and evidence-based,” will help to create a clear but comprehensive picture of AgriTech’s role relative to the UK’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It will also open new opportunities to integrate consumer data into the innovation pathway.

As one contributor stated, “I think that’s a real plea for research here to try and get these baselines and these methods and the metrics that we want to measure and the methods by which we measure them, and then someone can measure them.” Continuing, another noted that “we’re always going to work with imperfect knowledge, and so we will get stuff wrong. But that shouldn’t stop us from improving on the 80 per cent that we can do better on. So, let’s focus on those sustainability metrics that we think are the most important to measure and then let’s start to measure them such that someone independent can demonstrate a government position and can demonstrate the direction of travel to all stakeholders.”


Communicating the benefits

The role of the consumer, as the ultimate purchaser of food products, must not be understated and should form an essential component of government and the sector’s thinking on AgriTech. However, given the complexity of the food system, and the potential for the actions of one stakeholder to impact another, the AgriFood sector and policymakers will need to “really think about the questions [they] ask of the different stakeholders and what is appropriate for them to answer.”

Reaching consumers effectively will also require a clear commitment from government that coordinates the efforts of stakeholders – and a considered approach to consumer outreach that emphasises AgriTech’s benefits clearly. As one contributor stated, “if you look at the health sector, some of those technologies have been far more accepted than perhaps in the food sector. But in part that’s because people see the benefits and will try them.”


Innovation in the Food Supply Chain is a recently finished closed roundtable series that is currently being developed into a report. If you would like to contribute to the report, please contact either eliot.gillings@publicpolicyprojects.com or operations@publicpolicyprojects.com.

1 https://www.eitfood.eu/blog/what-is-the-state-of-consumer-trust-in-the-european-agrifood-industry

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Innovation pathways for the consumer https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-pathways-for-the-consumer/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-pathways-for-the-consumer/#respond Mon, 10 Oct 2022 10:40:50 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9704 The fourth and final roundtable of the Innovation in the Food Supply Chain series.

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AgriTech will play an essential role in the transition towards a more secure and carbon-efficient food system. However, a lack of consumer trust currently poses a blocker to the integration of new technologies into the production of food.

According to the 2020 EIT Food Trust Report, consumer trust in the agrifood industry has recently increased in the EU, but not significantly. As the report noted, only 40 per cent of EU consumers believe the products that they are purchasing are ‘authentic’ (meaning “they are what they say they are and include the correct, original information on the label”) and only 30 per cent are confident that those products have been produced sustainably.1

At the same time, however, consumers are growing more conscious of sustainability when making food choices. In the same survey, 76 per cent of respondents said they felt “a moral obligation to use environmentally friendly products,” and another 60 per cent reported that they tried to choose sustainable goods over those that are not.

Operating in a similar market, and still utilising significant portions of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the UK’s food system faces a similar challenge to their EU counterparts in terms of improving consumer trust. However, a growing desire for sustainability presents an opportunity for the sector to avail AgriTech’s utility as a net zero driver to the public.

At the fourth roundtable of the Innovation in the Food Supply Chain series, contributors were asked to consider the unique moment the AgriFood sector finds itself in, and how the sector could better serve the needs and concerns of consumers. Discussing how stakeholders in the innovation pathway can engender greater consumer trust in their products, better understand consumer need and platform the net zero utility of AgriTech innovation, roundtable participants outlined several key considerations for policymakers outlined below.


Learning from the past

Many of the controversies that have surrounded the integration of new technologies into food production have a common theme – a sense among consumers that new changes were being imposed upon them, but not to their benefit. For instance, as one contributor to the roundtable session noted, the sense of distrust that surrounded genetically modified crops in the 1990s was largely spurred by an overwhelming feeling that the transition to GM foods would deliver negligible benefits to consumers.

Clarifying the benefit of new technologies to consumers should, accordingly, be prioritised. Amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, and a growing consumer appetite for sustainable options, the AgriFood sector arguably has an obvious and acute set of consumer needs to cater to. As one contributor noted, “this summer has been a turning point for many people. I think the prospect of having a degree of insurance against climate change and climate shocks in the food production system is a very positive thing. But it’s something that we haven’t really talked about – and how we can use AgriTech to provide this insurance hasn’t been very well articulated.”

However, as another contributor noted, it is key to ensure that the sector does not come to think of consumers as a homogenous unit. “It’s not a silver bullet that’s going to do all this. It’s going to be a range of different messages that we get through.” While some consumer groups are likely to be swayed by AgriTech’s ability to deliver health improvements, others may find food security or the AgriFood sector’s emissions to be more pressing concerns. The sector’s messaging on the benefits of AgriTech should, accordingly, target different demographics – and seek to avail its utility as a solution to rising costs, climate change, and food security to do so.

It is also key, however, that outreach also focuses on leveraging AgriTech’s ability to deliver benefits to the consumer as an individual. As one contributor noted, “if you make [products] tastier, if you make them cheaper and if you make them with a clear benefit to the consumer,” then you can more clearly demonstrate the value of AgriTech to a wider audience. However, it should be noted that the making of health claims is strictly regulated. Accordingly, messaging on the benefits of AgriTech should also take a keen focus on individual interests and health – and should seek to outline these potential benefits in their messaging to al demographics.


Knowledge-sharing

There is a significant gap in the public’s knowledge of the various technologies subsumed within the concept of AgriTech, and their impacts (existing and future) on the food system. As one contributor noted, referencing the most presently active area of debate for AgriTech, “the vast majority of consumers have never heard of [gene-edited products], they don’t know what they are, [and] they are very uncertain about them.”

The government’s precision breeding bill, for example, has amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to clarify the distinction between precision bred organisms (PBOs) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – but there remains a great deal of uncertainty amongst the public regarding the difference between a GMO and a PBO. While several contributors noted that “the government has done a very good job on the bill itself,” greater clarity must be provided on what a PBO is, how it differentiates from a GMO, and how creation of PBOs can deliver benefits to both individuals and communities by “providing affordable, nutritious food in the most sustainable way.”

Groups such as Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G) have suggested that this definition lacks scientific rigour and should this concern not be addressed, there is a legitimate risk that the precision breeding bill will fail to assuage public concerns over the inclusion of genetic technologies in food production – and could thereby further harm consumer trust in the AgriFood sector.

It is therefore key that consumers better understand the distinction between GMOs and PBOs, and how genetic technologies already impact the UK’s food system more generally. Almost all cotton on the market, for instance, is derived from GM plants and a significant portion of livestock feed includes GM ingredients – and outreach should explore opportunities to use other working examples of technologies in existing food and agricultural systems to highlight potential benefits to consumers. It is also essential that communications with consumers represent the complex uses and implications of these technologies as effectively as possible. As one contributor explained, “we’re going to have to have more of these conversations with consumers and with supermarkets to make sure that we’re not oversimplifying in ways that reduce trust.”


Building trust through regulation

Numerous contributors emphasised the need for improved public outreach – however there was some discussion over who would be responsible for its oversight. It may seem that regulatory agencies are best placed to provide clarity to consumers on new products. However, if these agencies are perceived to be abdicating their duties regarding food safety, consumer trust could be further eroded.

As one contributor noted, the ultimate role “of the FSA is to establish, and advocate for, consumer needs, consumer views, and incorporate them into the information and advice they provide to ministers.” As such, while contributors agreed that the provision of clear and consistent safety measures was a key component of retaining consumer trust, many expressed a view that safety measures were more of a ‘hygiene factor’ than a selling point. Instead, many suggested that customers would be more likely to purchase, and trust, foods produced with new technologies if the health and environmental benefits of the new production process were clearer.

However, regulators have a key role to play in the implementation of new technologies, nonetheless. For instance, on the matter of labelling, it is key that the FSA and the sector continue to critically assess the impact of their decisions on consumer perceptions. For instance, as one contributor noted, while labelling PBOs may initially improve consumer trust in the AgriFood industry, this may entrench perceptions that certain technologies are not safe. “Is it in the consumer interests for the regulators to reinforce perceptions by labelling not only this, but perhaps a whole list of other future new technologies that might be coming along? Especially when, if you probe a little more and delve a little deeper, you can start to understand why it is that consumers are feeling uncertain and what things you can do to build trust.”

Regulators should, accordingly, seek to prioritise the strengthening of relationships with consumer groups and community organisations to better understand how to leverage and develop their status as a trusted safety authority most effectively. Lessons should be taken from responses to safety concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic – and the opportunity to build on the pandemic’s impact on the profile of genetic innovation should also be capitalised on. As one contributor illustrated, “we have seen a change and we actually think Covid helped.” Continuing, however, they noted that, “when we asked people questions about just GMOs or gene editing, there’s still quite a negative perception and a lot of misunderstandings.”


The private sector

Contributors commented that while public outreach led by government departments would be an essential part of any information campaign, there was also a need for the private sector to take a leadership position on outreach. As one stated, “as a funding agency who spends a lot of money on funding the science, we are putting, almost half of our money now into public education awareness… if we really want these innovations to be taken up, we actually have to have the stakeholders driving it and doing that education and engagement.”
There is a particularly important role for retailers and supermarkets to play. As one contributor noted, “we need to reinvent agriculture on a sustainable pathway, and the extent to which supermarkets support that narrative will play a huge role.” Consumers largely interact with the AgriFood sector through the mediation of retailers, and it follows that the latter’s support will be essential to improving trust in the sector. As another contributor argued, “if we go back to the GM debate of the 1990s, the supermarkets took a position and from that point forward, the debate was finished.”

Working with supermarkets to promote and sustain innovation is, however, complicated by the relatively short-term planning of retailers. As one contributor noted, “we can’t really engage the supermarkets until we’re much nearer the market in Britain.” Retailers, like consumers, will generally prioritise products that they can utilise in the near term. “So, if you’re a technology developer and you’re looking at beginning a project that may produce results in 5-to-10 years, [retailers] don’t have time for you.” Similarly for consumers, “it’s very hard for consumers to engage with the product until you’ve at least got it in trials and at least a couple of years of commercialisation.”

While innovators and distributors alike can also contribute to improved communication with consumers, AgriFood’s ability, as a sector, to reframe its communications and engage with consumers more effectively is somewhat limited by how many moving parts are involved in the sector and how long it takes to adapt. One contributor explained that, like the energy market, “agriculture needs decades to adapt.” As such, while there are significant opportunities for the private sector to cater to evolving demand and an emergent “consensus around the need for change focused on responding to climate change and on food prices,” there is a strong likelihood that the private sector will be too slow to respond without government guidance and co-ordination.

The UK would therefore benefit from a government-led initiative to provide some form of an advanced market commitment (AMC) and extend the time horizons for AgriTech projects. This should also include a review of existing land management strategies, which may involve the UK government emulating the ethos of AgriTech land strategies such as British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Use Regulation in Canada. This initiative should also seek to develop improved sustainability metrics and streamlined methods of reporting. “Giving the industry and supply chains a better means of ranking innovation and technology by its impact on sustainability goals, and generally helping that conversation to be more scientific and evidence-based,” will help to create a clear but comprehensive picture of AgriTech’s role relative to the UK’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It will also open new opportunities to integrate consumer data into the innovation pathway.

As one contributor stated, “I think that’s a real plea for research here to try and get these baselines and these methods and the metrics that we want to measure and the methods by which we measure them, and then someone can measure them.” Continuing, another noted that “we’re always going to work with imperfect knowledge, and so we will get stuff wrong. But that shouldn’t stop us from improving on the 80 per cent that we can do better on. So, let’s focus on those sustainability metrics that we think are the most important to measure and then let’s start to measure them such that someone independent can demonstrate a government position and can demonstrate the direction of travel to all stakeholders.”


Communicating the benefits

The role of the consumer, as the ultimate purchaser of food products, must not be understated and should form an essential component of government and the sector’s thinking on AgriTech. However, given the complexity of the food system, and the potential for the actions of one stakeholder to impact another, the AgriFood sector and policymakers will need to “really think about the questions [they] ask of the different stakeholders and what is appropriate for them to answer.”

Reaching consumers effectively will also require a clear commitment from government that coordinates the efforts of stakeholders – and a considered approach to consumer outreach that avails AgriTech’s benefits clearly. As one contributor stated, “if you look at the health sector, some of those technologies have been far more accepted than perhaps in the food sector. But in part that’s because people see the benefits and will try them.”


Innovation in the Food Supply Chain is a recently finished closed roundtable series that is currently being developed into a report. If you would like to contribute to the report, please contact either eliot.gillings@publicpolicyprojects.com or operations@publicpolicyprojects.com.

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Innovation in the food supply chain: “Finding the pathway to inclusive adaptation” https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-food-supply-chain-pathway-inclusive/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/innovation-food-supply-chain-pathway-inclusive/#respond Thu, 15 Sep 2022 11:04:39 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9604 In PPP's third AgriFood roundtable, participants discussed how the sector can embed innovation priorities and enable agile collaboration between regulators, innovators and end-users.

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The third roundtable of the Innovation in the Food Supply Chain series, Forging a path to inclusive adaptation, centred around two key questions for the rapidly evolving AgriTech sector; how does the sector earmark innovation priorities, and how do the various institutions supporting innovation pathways collaborate more effectively?

The session included representatives from the UK’s AgriTech institutions, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH), the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in London, Genome Canada and Bayer Crop Science. Guided by the two aforementioned questions, contributors discussed how data, regulation and accountability could all be leveraged to deliver a more efficacious and joined-up pre-farmgate supply chain.


Funding collaboration

The AgriFood sector’s fragmentation is the most significant blocker to the financing, development and implementation of AgriTech. However, given the complexity of production and innovation processes, and the UK’s topographical variance, centralisation is not a viable solution. As such, the UK must prioritise improved connections between relevant organisations.

The first key breakdown in communication that the sector must resolve is between the innovator and the regulator. As one contributor noted, “innovators are very focused on their product, their technique. They’re focused on getting their start-up funding, they’re focused on proof of concept and they’re perhaps less focused on the demands of the regulatory bodies.” Regulators such as the Food Standards Agency have begun to address this disconnect by growing outreach and stakeholder engagement teams. One contributor noted that the John Innes Centre, one of the UK’s agricultural research centres, had recently hosted a large contingent of staff from the FSA and DEFRA – facilitating the “two-way learning process” of getting researchers better integrated with regulators.

Contributors also noted that some success had been achieved by programmes that require funding applicants to apply as a consortium. By bringing together multiple players, each of whom can react and work with regulators, these sorts of consortia “speed up the process of doing the research and gathering the evidence.” Looking beyond the sector, the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium provides a useful example. However, until a process of early review is formally put into place, regulators are liable to find themselves needing to “stop the clock and open a dialogue with the applicants.” Currently, there is no clear funding structure for the facilitation of closer working between innovators and regulators.

Various bodies, such as the Catapult networks, the UK’s AgriTech and agricultural research institutions and UKRI all work to catalyse close collaboration between regulators, innovators, and other relevant stakeholders. However, these organisations’ objectives are typically narrow in focus, and are defined in terms of a particular policy silo.

Alternatively, institutions such as Genome Canada (which are specifically tasked with delivering economic growth through research applications), have had considerable success guiding the implementation of innovation in the application of genomics. Connecting different elements of the innovation value chain, Genome Canada also serves as a major funder of research across public institutions and regularly collaborates with the private sector.

The need for researchers to become more familiar with regulation, and for regulators to become more familiar with the technology they regulate is especially pressing given the transitive moment the industry finds itself in. The challenge of drastically curbing emissions while delivering better quality produce in greater quantities will necessitate rapid transitions to more efficient technologies and practices – and as such increased familiarity between regulators and researchers must be a priority for policymakers.

Improved connectivity between regulators and researchers is also likely to reduce risk exposure for industry. One contributor noted that a program that enabled regulators to work with researchers in the early stages of product development would likely engender greater confidence in industry players looking to support innovation in the sector.

Policymakers should, accordingly, explore opportunities for the creation of such a program. This may involve expanding or altering the remits of existing public bodies, or the creation of a new body, or bodies, altogether. Genomics England, for example, could be empowered to work outside of the Department for Health and Social Care. Said body, or bodies, should ultimately be tasked with promoting AgriTech innovation as a driver of economic growth. This would, however, necessitate improved clarity on the remits of the various regulatory authorities relevant to the sector.


Unlocking data sharing

Increased connectivity between organisations in the sector (and between innovators and regulators) should not only improve the market readiness of innovation but is also likely to support innovation itself. If these connections are extended beyond silos of AgriTech innovation and agricultural practice, the benefits could be exponential. One contributor stated that “those that are working in the livestock science community, they may not share the same language [as those in the crop science community] but the data can be interpreted by one another and used to tackle specific issues and important interdisciplinary questions.” Or more simply, as one contributor remarked, “when we are talking with our colleagues about our experiences in plants and the new precision breeding technologies of plants, we want to [be able to] compare that with the implications [for] livestock.”

Allowing innovators with different focuses to effectively communicate necessarily involves making field data, or data that may be less controlled than laboratory data, more available and accessible to researchers. This, in turn, would require new models to host this data. As one contributor noted, “we’ve got to achieve interoperability of data [collected from different agricultural practices], and that’s the single most challenging part of establishing [an improved] data infrastructure. It’s not a matter of standardising data so that all data conforms to some readily agreed standard that will never be achieved. It’s about creating domain models that allow us to map data from different areas… of the domain onto a common reference point.”

An emphasis on translational research also has the benefit of improving trust and collaboration between farmers and researchers. One contributor noted that “once you start to see transactional data sharing happening, you actually start to see that you’re getting value back from sharing your data or making it available.” In this sense, it is imperative that policymakers consider not only the role of regulation, but also of incentives, in driving behaviour. Accordingly, driving investment into infrastructure that can serve farmers should be a key tenet of any AgriTech strategy.


Clarifying data ownership

Data-sharing collaborations – particularly between the public and private sectors – must contend with challenges regarding data and intellectual property ownership. As one contributor contended, “obviously people want to protect their intellectual property, and they perhaps underestimate the requirements of producing evidence to the regulator and the overhead of going through the regulatory process. That creates quite a lot of fear within businesses around sharing ownership of data and whether they’re going to get exploited.”

There is also a sense of caution around data-sharing within the supply chain itself. As one participant commented, “looking at sensitive topics like traceability and sustainability, and often where there is an end user (i.e., the farmer or landowner) there is a real issue with data sensitivity. They’re worried about that data being misused by the supply chain.”

Another contributor, however, noted that there is an opportunity embedded within the challenge of improving data sharing; “being able to integrate this massive amount of complex data is going to be very interesting and difficult. But it also presents the opportunity to perhaps overcome some challenges with IP, because data then resides in a public domain type setting. Finding ways to come around and share elements that create value for all, while respecting the needs for downstream players to receive a return on investment, is going to be very important.”

Currently, data ownership is thought of in terms of the precepts laid out by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), however competition law adds another layer of complexity. While GDPR applies to personal data, it can also impact the flow of non-personal data, particularly within datasets that combine personal and non-personal information.1 The cost of organising datasets to comply with GDPR is also typically high, creating an artificial barrier to smaller entrants. It also complicates certain processes of data collection, sometimes providing an unfair advantage to data controllers, and reduces the economic incentive for firms to share data (in large part because those who share data are still responsible for monitoring its usage once it has been shared with data receivers).

One contributor observed that “there’s this conflation between personal data and private-public B2B data. Clarity on ownership sharing and what’s expected will be really helpful, as there are always problems and barriers with data sharing.” Government could play a key role in facilitating data sharing and collaboration within the private sector by providing greater clarity on GDPR and its relationship with competition law.

While the FSA, alongside a number of research institutions, are currently engaged in the building of “data sharing trust frameworks,” the sheer complexity of the AgriFood supply chain at the pre-farmgate level necessitates top-down clarity on standards and regulations. In the context of the sector’s need to drastically alter practices in a fairly short timeframe, this clarity on regulation may need to anticipate changes in technology.

As one participant stated, “by the time you bring a crop product to market that’s 10, 15 years down the line, but the climate will have changed drastically by then.” As such, government should work closely with regulators and research institutions to develop regulatory guidance of the industry, and establish a data-sharing framework that would sit “above the regulator or the regulations.” It is essential that this data-sharing framework encourages the breakdown of silos within the agriculture and AgriTech sectors.


Further considerations

Government must be aware that “agriculture tends to be quite a reactive sector,” and that it is “easy to overregulate.” It was articulated that “if authorisation means public consultation and secretary of state sign-off, well that’s quite a high level of scrutiny and cost.” Interest was expressed in developing a new “triage approach where products can be screened and those which do not pose a risk can be treated differently to those which may.” These approaches could be informed by approaches adopted internationally – with one participant noting that “Australia routinely takes a year to do risk assessment and authorisation for product imports, whereas the same products tend to take roughly six years to pass through the same processes in the EU.”

It is key, however, to recognise that agencies that are ultimately responsible for consumer trust must continue to prioritise the consumer. As one contributor noted, “if people don’t trust food, if they don’t believe that food companies – whether it’s research institutes, farmers or development companies – have the interests of the consumer at heart, then it’s very difficult not only to develop new products, but also to bring them to market.” This also complicates the process of getting new people to pursue careers in the field, and to get consumers to believe that the food and the feed products that are being produced will be safe to eat. A lack of consumer trust could also be a blocker to international investment.

There is also a pressing question regarding how innovation in AgriTech will be fuelled amid labour shortages within an already tight market. Specifically in the context of increased information sharing, there is a need for new staff. As argued by one participant, “when you’re integrating the farmer with the data, they have no time to sit down and analyse the stuff. So, support services are going to be very, very important in order to realise the full value of these technologies in the hands of the farmer.”

To this point, coordinated and targeted strategies to assess existing gaps exist in skills relating to of technologies (such as soil husbandry, carbon auditing and biomass management) will be crucial. The TIAH is one of the bodies currently undertaking research into the labour market’s impact on AgriTech innovation and is focusing on launching a campaign to improve perceptions of the sector. However future planning is key for these bodies, specifically the development of models that allow groups like the TIAH to anticipate areas of need, which makes data access a crucial consideration for the agriculture and AgriTech labour markets.


Innovation in the Food Supply Chain is an ongoing closed roundtable series. If you are interested in participating, please contact either eliot.gillings@publicpolicyprojects.com or operations@publicpolicyprojects.com. Following the conclusion of the roundtable series this autumn, the full Innovation in the Food Supply Chain report will be published.

1 Michal S Gal, Oshrit Aviv, The Competitive Effects of the GDPR, Journal of Competition Law & Economics, Volume 16, Issue 3, September 200, Pages 349–391, https://doi.org/10.1093/joclec/nhaa012

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Health and Care Select Committee accepts PPP report as evidence in integrated care inquiry   https://publicpolicyprojects.com/latest-from-ppp/health-and-care-select-committee-accepts-ppp-report-as-evidence-in-integrated-care-inquiry/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/latest-from-ppp/health-and-care-select-committee-accepts-ppp-report-as-evidence-in-integrated-care-inquiry/#respond Tue, 13 Sep 2022 19:41:57 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9584 The Heath and Care Select Committee has accepted a recent report from Public Policy Projects as evidence in its inquiry to consider how Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will deliver joined up health and care services to meet the needs of local populations.

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The inquiry considers how ICSs will be able to operate with the flexibility and autonomy required in order to tackle inequalities in the populations they serve and whether the pursuit of central targets can be consistent with local autonomy. 

PPP’s report, ICS Futures, examines the decision-making processes of ICSs and how they choose to adapt their services to meet local population needs. The report collates the key findings from three roundtables, each chaired by Matthew Swindells, former Deputy CEO of NHS England current Chair of the North West London NHS Acute Collaborative. Each roundtable convened up to 30 ICS Chairs and key transformation stakeholders. 

The report presents a series of recommendations to both national government and ICS system level leadership across three core topics:  

  • Digital Infrastructure and Health Data 
  • The Development of Primary and Community Health Serivces and Links with Social care
  • Prevention, Early Intervention and Health Inequalities

Ensuring all parts of the sector get a seat at the table

ICS Futures tackles with profound questions relating to system vs place-based decision making, dissecting key issues relating to governance and accountability. The report insists that ICSs should come to represent a ‘partnership of equals’ between different parts of the system, particularly social care.

PPP’s report also found that historic tensions between the subsidiarity of place with aggregation and scale remain prominent across England’s health and care system. ICSs will need to grapple with these challenges in a way that works best for their localities, adopting flexible approaches that allow for system wide direction while not stifling local innovation. 

There remains a lack of awareness among the public, and indeed within the health service, of the full range of care provision available within a locality, whether that be social care, secondary care, primary care, social prescription, or tertiary care. 

The expertise and insight of the social care sector remains an underused resource in driving system transformation and understanding and awareness of social care provision across within ICSs remains low.


Data sharing as a duty of care 

Among the key data findings from ICS Futures is the fact that ICSs are currently grappling with a heavily fragmented data platform landscape, with many competing systems in use. This ‘platform soup’ mentality lacks the cohesion necessary for ICSs to implement population health management approaches. There are many legacy systems, often used previously by individual CCGs, that do not necessarily interoperate with system wide solutions. 

The report recommends that ICBs be empowered to make bold decisions, potentially scrapping old legacy data systems in favour of system-wide interoperability.  

The report does however find that ICSs have made a good start in developing data strategies by creating data analytics teams across the country and that the crisis of Covid-19 has shifted the dial in favour of greater interoperability and data sharing – this is further emphasised by the Inegrated Care Partnership onus on collaboration above competition.

Despite recent progress, the report finds that there remains significant apprehension to data sharing, both among the public and the health and care workforce. Much of this relates to previous lapses in data security (or at least the communications strategies that surrounded them), but also a fear that data will be used for performance management purposes. 

In order to firmly establish the importance of data, ICS Futures recommends that the NHS constitution should be amended to establish data sharing as a duty of care. ICS leadership should work to embed this mentality, both for clinicians using the data, and for the patients and end users on the receiving end of its benefits. 


Health inequality as a tangible objective 

The ICS Network agrees that tackling health inequality must be the central objective of integrated care, and this should be considered a unifying objective across health and care providers. However, there are tensions between aspiration and reality within health inequalities; there is a sense that reporting structures around health inequality have been taken to system level when the truly valuable data can be measured and harnessed at place level. 

Crucial to this discussion is differentiating between determining factors associated with long-term economic inequality and social deprivation against factors well within NHS control, such as inequalities within waiting lists.  ICS Futures asserts that the NHS has yet to fully utilise its potential as an anchor institution. 

In addressing health inequalities, it is vital that ICSs become a coordination point for broad public service integration and not simply a machinery to break down siloes within the NHS. ICBs should look to leverage their position as conveners of key public sector organisations and push for policies that promote economic regeneration and help target deprived and disenfranchised communities. This could include initiatives to push health providers to make prioritised recruitment drives from more deprived areas within their systems, and an onus to not outsource public sector contracts that could hold employment opportunities for local communities. 


For this wave of reform to be successful, ICSs will need to break with historical mistakes, focusing on outcomes over outputs, relationships over structures and above all else, people

Commenting on the launch of the report and its acceptance into the Health and Care Select Committee’s inquiry, David Duffy, Head of Content at Public Policy Projects and co-author of the report alog side PPP Content Editor Gabriel Blaazer said: “Integrated care is not a new concept, and ICSs do not represent the first attempt to join up health and care services. For this wave of reform to be successful, ICSs will need to break with historical mistakes, focusing on outcomes over outputs, relationships over structures and above all else, people. 

“Previous iterations of integrated care have failed to effect significant change because decision makers have not had the tools they needed to drive service reform, or were simply not aware of what was available to them. This lack of awareness is still present within current ICSs structures, partly due to ongoing tensions between aggregation and scale against place-based decision making. 

“We are pleased that our report has been accepted as evidence in the Health and Care select Committee’s latest Inquiry, and we hope to continue to submit further evidence as we travel the country in our ICS Roadshow series, where we are evaluating the progress of integrated care at a localised level.” 

Download the full version of the report here. Alternatively, an executive summary version is now available on the Health and Care Select Committee’s website labelled with reference: ICS0045. 

Across the autumn, PPP will be taking the findings of this report and applying them at a local level. The ICS Roadshow is a series of half day conferences that convenes local stakeholders and system leaders across five different regions across the autumn. 

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Truss me, I’m a doctor: If saving the NHS is the question, is Liz the answer? https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/truss-me-im-a-doctor-saving-nhs/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/news/truss-me-im-a-doctor-saving-nhs/#respond Wed, 24 Aug 2022 11:44:34 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9490 With convergent winter crises looming over the horizon, Ísla O'Connor assesses the Conservative Leadership hopefuls' plans for the NHS.

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As we crawl into the twilight hours of a lengthy and fraught Conservative leadership campaign, the British public is inundated with national crises that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have promised to resolve. Over the course of this leadership campaign, people across the UK have baked in 40-degree temperatures and cooled off in sewage-filled seas, grappling with the rising cost of living and facing a winter of unaffordable energy bills and prospective fuel poverty.

On top of this, concerns regarding the state of the NHS have dominated national discourse as waiting lists for elective procedures grow to 6.7 million, up 50 per cent from pre-pandemic levels., Meanwhile, NHS member organisations warn that working conditions and A&E waiting times are continuing to deteriorate, with the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours increasing by a third since mid-July. The social care sector continues to be left in disarray despite Boris Johnson’s promises to “fix social care” and is set to suffer further as the NHS crumbles alongside it.

Liz Truss appears to be the Conservative Party favourite to tackle these issues with Tory Party MP Saqib Bhatti stating on LBC that Truss has the “robustness” and “drive” to tackle current NHS pressures, which allegedly exist as side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Arguing that these extraordinary NHS pressures are simply a ‘hangover’ from the pandemic does not account for the non-covid-related excess deaths reported by the Financial Times, nor for the pressures the NHS continues to face in the pandemic’s wake. According to Our World in Data, the UK recorded the highest number of global deaths per million in August 2022 and the second highest number of total Covid-19-related deaths globally.

Working at the coalface of this crisis are the doctors, nurses, carers and allied health professionals who provide emergency and rehabilitative care to those who continue to be impacted by severe Covid-19 infection. These healthcare professionals are also gearing up for the NHS winter surge, which is predicted to be exacerbated by an increased incidence of flu infection and fuel poverty. But according to her peers, Truss is the Conservative Party Leader who can address these issues.


Policies in the pipeline

So, what makes Truss capable of saving the NHS? According to The Telegraph, Truss plans to unveil a series of taxation and pension reforms to allow high-earning consultants and GPs to provide care to more patients without financial cost. Other alleged plans include encouraging retirees to return to work in the NHS and removing “unnecessary” training schemes associated with their return to practice. These policies, among many others not promoted by Truss, are featured in the Health Select Committee’s July 2022 report ‘Workforce: Recruitment, Training and Retention in Health and Social Care’. As of yet, the physician pension tax reform proposal has not been accompanied by a financial strategy to account for public services provision without these taxes. However, as Truss plans to call a snap Spending Review, these changes may all be accounted for in due course.

Understandably, proposed pension reform is a welcome change to many long-serving NHS employees. However, tackling workforce shortages by encouraging clinicians to return from retirement was one of a number of emergency measures implemented across the NHS in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and does not offer a long-term solution to NHS workforce shortages. Pension reform and facilitating return to practice will tackle only a small component of a system-wide crisis and fails to account for the burn-out and poor working conditions that are driving healthcare professionals to leave the NHS in the first place.

In a Medscape UK survey of 1012 UK doctors, 1 in 3 GPs and 1 in 4 specialty doctors are considering leaving medicine and only 30 per cent of GPs reported feeling satisfied in their jobs, compared to 62 per cent of speciality doctors. Saving the NHS does not require a fresh face, a unique political grit, clapping for carers or forcing an over-stretched workforce to soldier on. These Medscape UK figures cannot be addressed by reducing pension taxes alone. This crisis requires that the government works alongside the healthcare workforce to rebuild a crumbling healthcare system and the policies that can facilitate this are plentiful and readily available.


Tax cuts won’t cut it

Down the line, Truss may propose radical reform across the NHS, increase government spending, provide pay rises in line with inflation, facilitate training and recruitment for all health care provider roles and improve working conditions, however, her likelihood to do so is unclear. Should her desire for pension reform be borne from a desire to invest in the NHS workforce rather than from a dislike of taxation, the NHS may well benefit from her tenure. However, prior to her political career, she co-authored a piece for far-right think-tank Reform calling for pay-cuts for doctors and supporting charging patients for GP appointments.

Truss currently sits on the Board of Parliamentary Supporters for the think-tank ‘1828’, which avidly supports the of privatisation of the NHS. Should her position remain, NHS reform that accounts for the cost-of-living crisis for all healthcare professionals and prioritises the wellbeing of the workforce may not arise as consequences of her leadership. Whether these policy leanings would inform the decisions of a Truss-led government remains to be seen, but if implemented they are unlikely to be popular with the electorate, as only 2 per cent of people would support whole privatisation of the NHS and 64 per cent believe the NHS should be funded by general taxation from the population, according to two recent YouGov polls.

If elected leader of the Conservative Party, Truss is obligated to fulfil the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto, of which NHS resourcing and workforce recruitment is a core priority. Declared as uniquely capable of tackling this NHS crisis by her colleagues, Truss’ leadership promises plenty. Yet her policies and pronouncements suggest that any NHS reforms undertaken will be approached through the lens of tax cuts.

Addressing poor working conditions, testing and treatment backlogs and A&E waiting time crises is not possible through reducing pension taxation alone. Rather, they should be addressed through sustained allocation of government resources, prioritisation of apprenticeships, education and training across the NHS, payment of staff to account for the cost-of-living crisis, and investment in health promotion and disease prevention measures.

Whether Truss or Sunak will become the next Prime Minister remains to be seen, and Sunak has been criticised widely for his reticence to lay out a policy strategy tackling the current pressures experienced by the NHS and the social care sector. Sunak’s promise to put the NHS on “war footing” has been met with calls for realism, notably from Danny Mortimer, Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation. The New Statesman has criticised both candidates, stating “the pair are more comfortable trading barbs and talking up culture wars than they are engaging with the ugly reality of the country’s most important public service.”

Ultimately, the future Prime Minister’s chosen policies will come at a time where the NHS and social care sectors desperately need pragmatism, investment, support and manpower to prevent total collapse. The future Secretary for Health and Social Care will ultimately decide if the plight of the NHS and its employees across the UK will be addressed through government policy, but if their policies start and stop with those of Truss, the NHS may be left wanting.

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Becoming a “science superpower”; more than words on a page https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/becoming-science-superpower-more-than-words/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/becoming-science-superpower-more-than-words/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2022 13:22:10 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9472 In late July, The Economist declared that there is “no better example” of Britain’s strengths than the life sciences sector. To what extent have the government's ambitions translated into action?

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Earlier this month, former Conservative minister, William Hague, described ensuring that Britain becomes a science superpower as “the single most important activity” for the incoming Prime Minister.

As the final two candidates for Conservative Party leadership were announced, former Science Minister, George Freeman MP, stated he would back “whoever as Prime Minister will best put science technology & innovation at the heart of our economic plan”. Lastly, in their most recent report, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee hailed the “exceptional science and technology base in the UK” but highlighted that without continued commitment, “science and technology superpower” would simply be an empty slogan.

The desire for the United Kingdom to cement itself as a flourishing and competitive life sciences, research and development, and innovation nation is evident. This was recognised in the 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto, which detailed commitments to the life sciences sector, vaccine development and medicines. It was here that the ambition to make the UK “the leading global hub for life sciences” was cemented.

Key stakeholders in the sector have launched the campaign to keep the delivery of the Life Sciences Vision at the top of the agenda. But in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, questions regarding the integrity and character of Boris Johnson, and a seemingly ever more divided Conservative Party, it’s position of importance seems to be slipping.


A strong foundation

It is not news that science and technology in the UK has a long and established history, greatly contributing to the field globally. From Newton, to Darwin, Franklin, Crick, Berners-Lee, Hawking, Lovelace and Fleming, many greats in the history of UK science need no introduction.

This legacy of excellence, combined with world-leading Universities and political will has translated into the UK continuing to play a leading role in further the advancement of science. Through the 100,000 Genomes Project and the development and deployment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to help tame the Covid-19 pandemic, to name but two examples.

In announcing the 100,000 Genomes Project, former Prime Minister David Cameron said that “it is crucial that [the UK] continues to push boundaries [of science]”. Since then, through continued support along with scientific and political will and investment, the UK has truly established itself as a global genomic superpower.

Additionally, in building upon the strength of the UK’s universities, the formation of a life sciences cluster has become ever more prevalent, the three most prominent of this cluster being the three corners of the “golden triangle”: Oxford, Cambridge and London. With the announcement of £900 million being invested to expand the Stevenage UK Bioscience Hub, creating up to 5,000 jobs, the potential to expand the sector further is clear.

Considering few industries have greater growth potential than life sciences, even in the midst of current political and social challenges, the will to deliver the UK’s mission to become a science superpower must not waver.


An empty slogan?

The UK presents a ripe environment within which the life sciences sector can continue to thrive and yield great benefits to society and the economy. However, if development of the sector is not resourced, the UK will only run the risk of falling further down the global leader board.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt across the healthcare sector, greatly impacting the NHS; however, decline in the delivery of research, for example, has been noted since 2017. While the pharmaceutical industry invests more in R&D than other sectors, since 2012, the share of global pharmaceutical R&D expenditure – according to data from the ABPI – has fallen from 7.7 per cent to 4.1 per cent. Prior to that, since 2010, the UK has fallen from 4th to 98th place in overall trade balance in pharmaceuticals.

As stated in The Economist, “real change requires political will”, rightfully setting out the mission for the next Prime Minister. While recent debates and hustings have focused upon economic growth through tax cuts, playing to the UK’s strengths will be mission critical. The life sciences sector lies at the heart of achieving that vision.

Supported by the Life Sciences Vision, Genome UK, The Future of Clinical Research Delivery and the Government Office for Science, to name but a few, the stage is set for the UK to propel itself to the top of the global science and tech leader board. If it fails to harness the potential of the life sciences sector, the “science superpower” mission statement will be nothing more than letters on a page. It’s down to the next Prime Minister to not let this opportunity slip the nation’s grasp.

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What should integrated care partnerships be prioritising? https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/what-should-integrated-care-partnerships-prioritise/ https://publicpolicyprojects.com/thought-leadership/what-should-integrated-care-partnerships-prioritise/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2022 12:43:33 +0000 https://publicpolicyprojects.com/?p=9464 As the wheels of integrated care begin to turn, Eliot Gillings explores exactly what integrated care partnerships should be prioritising, and why.

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An integrated care partnership (ICP) is ultimately responsible for the creation of an integration strategy that can inform the work of integrated care boards (ICBs) and partner organisations. Looking at short-, medium-, and long-term challenges to the delivery of health and care (which may impact certain regions disproportionately), the ICP has the opportunity to assess and address health inequalities through system-wide action.

Key to enacting system-wide action will be the development of collaborative networks between ICPs and partner organisations, including social care providers, charity and volunteer groups, primary care networks and others. Beyond enabling a more holistic and personalised provision of care, an institutional emphasis on collaboration will enable an ICP better understand the challenges faced by their systems and their populations.

In building that network, however, it will be key for ICPs to deliver short-term solutions to health inequalities within their systems, which will, in turn, necessitate the rapid establishment of institutional priorities. Accordingly, the following list highlights some key areas of consideration for ICPs as they continue to grow as statutory bodies.


     1. Closing the gap on data inequality

One of the central purposes of ICSs is reducing health inequality through population health strategies. However, while ICSs and health organisations already engage and utilise several sources of information, the development of new information-sharing networks should be a key priority to expand the assessment of outcomes and improve the provision of care.

Accordingly, ICPs should seek to explore the variety of local partners and stakeholders engaged with communities whose health data does not currently feed into the system level. This is of particular consideration for systems where deprivation is unevenly distributed amongst certain demographics – but also those that experience high levels of digital exclusion.


     2. Finding new solutions to inclusion health challenges

ICSs generally face challenges meeting the health and care needs of socially or economically excluded people. This is especially true of systems that already experience high rates of economic or social deprivation. Meeting the needs of people who are socially excluded and may experience multiple overlapping risk factors as a result, is particularly challenging from a population health perspective as they may be inconsistently accounted for in health databases.

To address these groups, ICSs must work to build information-sharing relationships with third-sector organisations and local groups who may offer services to socially excluded individuals and build relationships with the communities and individuals themselves. This work should also involve regular assessments of the impact of information sharing on health outcomes among these populations. Constant collaboration with partners and stakeholders to adjust the collection of information and the provision of care and outcomes should also be prioritised.


     3. Developing novel approaches to information

Building out a network that includes partners and stakeholders engaged with underrepresented and/or excluded groups and individuals is one means to improve access to data. However, the utilisation of new forms and sources of data will also be a key consideration for ICPs. For instance, ICPs may consider exploring a ‘whole-family’ approach to care, where the knock-on impacts of health within family units are considered within a strategy.

Strategies for the use and integration of new information should also be developed in conjunction with partner organisations and designed to address the particular needs of a system. However, it is key that frameworks for information sharing remain consistent to improve collaboration between ICSs.


     4. Utilising all levels of ICS functions

Often, individuals or organisations will be better served by engaging with an ICS at the neighbourhood or place level. This is particularly important when health inequalities are considered, as outcomes may drastically differ within a health system and a lack of engagement with health authorities may serve as a blocker to the delivery of improved outcomes to a vulnerable group. Accordingly, ICPs should ensure that well-developed strategies are in place to engage at these levels, and form insights that can inform work at the neighbourhood, place, and system level.


     5. Provisioning for social care

The adult social care landscape contains a diverse range of providers. Many are small enterprises which may have competing priorities, but these organisations nonetheless have close ties to the communities and individuals they serve. They may also provide care to individuals whose needs are misunderstood or not met in traditional health care settings. As such, they are an incredibly valuable resource to ICPs, particularly those keenly engaged with finding solutions to the health inequalities faced by the socially excluded.

It will be crucial that ICPs do not come to speak for these providers, but rather serve to connect them to a broad network of information-sharing that can simultaneously improve their provision of care and deliver insights to improve health outcomes elsewhere. ICPs should, therefore, prioritise outreach to adult social care providers for the delivery of short-term solutions to health inequalities.

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