James Woolnough (Senior Medical Writer) shares his impressions of attending a virtual committee meeting at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a public observer. James is a Senior Medical Writer at Mtech Access. He regularly writes health technology assessment (HTA) submissions, including for appraisal by NICE, on behalf of our clients.
As part of their commitment to process transparency, NICE continue to welcome members of the public to observe their committee meetings which, because of COVID-19, are now hosted virtually on Zoom.
I recently took the opportunity to attend a virtual NICE technology appraisal meeting from the Zoom “public gallery” as I was curious to see how COVID-era virtual NICE committee meetings compared with the traditional format.
A traditional NICE committee meeting
Pre-pandemic, NICE committee meetings were hosted around a table in a NICE conference room in London or Manchester, with public observers seated in a designated area at the back of the room. I have attended several of these meetings in recent years. My colleagues and I in the medical writing team at Mtech Access always try to attend meetings in which a submission we wrote is to be discussed – it’s helpful to see how the clinical and cost-effectiveness data presented in a given submission are considered by the NICE committee, and our clients are usually happy to see a familiar face on the day, too.
Joining a virtual NICE committee meeting
Joining the virtual meeting is a simple process of clicking on the Zoom link supplied via email by NICE – travel to London or Manchester is no longer necessary! Once in the meeting, public observers are ushered by a NICE coordinator into a virtual lobby where a register is taken, and the meeting format and rules are explained.
A period of waiting follows while the committee members get organised after which, we, the public observers, with our cameras off, microphones muted, and our screen names changed to “public observer,” are brought into the main meeting room of the call.
“…arriving in the virtual meeting room… I felt I had a seat at the NICE committee table…”
My immediate impression upon arriving in the virtual meeting room was that I felt I had a seat at the NICE committee table – I had a front-on view of the meeting attendees via their webcams, their names and affiliations were displayed as their screen names, and their speaking was clear to hear.
In contrast, in face-to-face NICE committee meetings, public observers sit at the back of the room, the NICE committee members facing away from them. As a result, the meeting discussions can sometimes be difficult to follow and speakers’ placards displaying their names and affiliations are not visible.
Overall, I was impressed by the virtual NICE committee meeting I attended. The submission that was discussed was complicated and certainly among my most challenging to write. So, to be able to clearly see and hear how NICE considered each issue was a useful learning experience for me.
Virtual committee meetings make them more accessible to public observers
NICE have done well to adapt their committee meetings to be hosted virtually and to continue welcoming members of the public to observe proceedings. Being virtual means these meetings are now even more accessible than they were pre-COVID as no travel is required to attend them. As a result, my colleagues and I have been able to attend more of these meetings and have gained greater insight into how evidence is considered by NICE – insight we’ve applied in our ongoing submissions to enhance the way we present evidence to NICE within the scope of the submission templates.
The insight gained means we’re also better equipped to host mock appraisal committee meetings, in which our in-house market access specialists and our network of external contacts support our clients’ preparation for their NICE appraisal, helping them to feel confident and ready to respond to even the most challenging questions.
Mtech Access’ expert medical writers and consultants support pharmaceutical companies with a wide range of HTA submissions, including submissions to NICE. We can assist with the generation of evidence and writing of your HTA submission. We also offer full pre- and post-submission support and can help teams prepare for committee meetings. For more information about how we could support you with this crucial stage of your market access journey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.