Nicola Bedlington


Nicola Bedlington is a special advisor to the European Patients’ Forum, and was formerly the  Secretary General / Executive Director from  June 2006 to May 2019.

From 2004 to 2006, she worked for the Swiss Government, leading the Environment and Schools Initiatives Secretariat (ENSI), an international government-based network set up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focusing on innovation, action research and policy development in the field of Education for Sustainable Development.

Whilst in Switzerland, she also worked as an independent consultant/evaluator, specialising in European social and development policy and health advocacy.

Previously, she was the Founding Director of the European Disability Forum, an umbrella organisation uniting  European disability non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to advocate for the human rights and inclusion of disabled citizens in Europe (1996 to 1999), and prior to this she worked as an external expert for the European Commission, heading the NGO unit within the HELIOS Programme (1991 to 1996).

Nicola studied business and human resource management in the UK and France.

The European Patients’ Forum is an umbrella organisation that works with patients’ groups in public health and health advocacy across Europe and its members represent specific chronic disease groups at EU level or are national coalitions of patients.

As Europe prepares for a new, inclusive public-private partnership in healthcare, the case for patient engagement is stronger than ever. As far back as 2012, the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) and MedTech Europe sat down to think about how we could work together more closely. We came up with the Patient-Medtech Dialogue – a forum for regular interaction on topics of mutual interest. Now, more than seven years later, the need to collaborate even more closely has grown. At the most recent Patient-Medtech Dialogue workshop in Brussels, we looked at where we are today and how current trends will shape our future collaboration. The conclusion was clear: we are embarking on a new era in multi-stakeholder partnership. An ongoing collaboration among healthcare actors that demands deeper mutual understanding. In concrete terms, patients would benefit to know more about the lifecycle of medical technologies and how products are regulated and financed by health systems. Medical technology companies would benefit to better understand the value patients can bring in setting research priorities and developing products. Learning curve Patients want and should have a role in the innovative process and in conversations about regulation and access. If we are to have a truly patient-centred health system, this is obvious. Take research and innovation as an example: While patients have been playing an increasingly proactive role in medicines development – notably through a number of Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) projects – this knowledge and experience will not automatically transfer to medical devices. The European Commission and healthcare stakeholders are in the process of devising a successor to the IMI – the largest healthcare public-private partnership in the world for health research and innovation. The new public-private partnership will definitely take a much broader view of healthcare -and will seek input from patients and patient...
As healthcare advocates, we know that dialogue between patients and the medical technology industry can deepen understanding between those who develop new healthcare solutions and those who use them. That is why our organisations, the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) and MedTech Europe, devised the Patient-Medtech Dialogue as a forum for regular interaction on topics of mutual interest in a transparent and open way. Our experience to date has been positive: The Patient-MedTech Dialogue is an initiative that began in 2011 with the aim of providing a platform for the exchange of perspectives between the patient and medtech communities. At our latest meetings, on 24 and 25 May, we co-hosted two half-day workshops, exploring two hot topics in healthcare: Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and community care in the context of improving access to medical technologies. We were delighted about the high interest and engagement of the patient organisations and MedTech companies that joined. In addition to the exchange between patients and industry representatives, the dialogue also engages with experts and other stakeholders. For example, these recent sessions benefited from the contributions of a European Commission official and senior representatives of HTAi, and Health First Europe. Health Technology Assessment The first workshop on HTA provided us with an opportunity to exchange perspectives on the European Commission’s legislative proposal on health technology assessment and on common rules for clinical assessment of health technologies undergoing HTA. There were also calls from various participants for greater transparency about how patient involvement in HTA processes translates into decision-making, and detailed discussion of the need for funding and training to ensure effective patient input. Care in the community The second workshop focused on community care – healthcare provided outside the hospital setting. We see technology helping to empower patients to manage their conditions and connect with specialists,...