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British Academy publishes workshop report: Exploring a new social contract for medical innovation

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The British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences have published a report of a one-day workshop held in association with the Medical Innovation Academic Consortium entitled ‘Exploring a new social contract for medical innovation’. 

The meeting on 3 June 2015 aimed to explore what is known, and what remains to be known, about how the value and risks of medical innovation are perceived and acted upon throughout society. It considered whether there is a need to adopt a new social contract for medical innovation – a conceptual agreement whereby the diverse interests of different stakeholders are reconciled in order to achieve a common good, in this case an effective and sustainable heath system, of which a key aspect is the adoption of medical innovation.

The workshop brought together key stakeholders from across the medical innovation landscape, including representatives from health economics, social sciences, humanities, patient advocates, and experts in public deliberations to:

  • Explore the perceptions of risk and value in relation to medical innovation from the perspectives of individuals, organisations, and society. 
  •  Understand the interactions between individuals, organisations, and society and how each group’s actions and needs might influence, or be influenced by, the actions and needs of the others. 
  • Consider how to engage all groups of stakeholders (in particular individuals who tend to be underrepresented) in dialogue about the future of medical innovation. 

Discussion centred around the perceptions of value and risk of medical innovation in future healthcare delivery, the importance of the NHS in any social contract for the delivery of health, and the need to publically engage with both patients and broader society in any dialogues about the future of medical innovation. As part of the workshop, Professor Albert Weale FBA spoke about hoe social contracts are created and used. A number of broad themes emerged from the day, including the importance of the NHS, trust, values, rights and responsibilities, and the complexity of the issues being discussed. Further important topics discussed at the meeting included innovation, data, communication and financial concerns.

Participants also considered ways in which wider dialogue about developing a new social contract for medical innovation could be initiated, and how to ensure that future discussions and recommendations are shaped by the views of wider society. An infographic providing a visual summary of these discussions can be found by clicking the ‘Infographic’ tab above.

A full report of the workshop can be downloaded here, and the discussion will also feed into an ongoing project on ‘How does society use evidence to judge the risks and benefits of medicines?’.

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