A review of the government's Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences has found eight out of the 13 initiatives reviewed have made notable progress toward the actions and commitments set out in the original strategy, but there is still much more work to do to meet the strategy's original objectives.
The review was undertaken by the four U.K. human healthcare trade associations that are partners in LifeSciencesUK: Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), BioIndustry Association (BIA) and British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA). Their report provides an “honest assessment” of the challenges and areas for further work. It looks at the flagship commitments the organizations believe have the greatest potential in enabling the life sciences sector to thrive, grow and, ultimately, deliver benefits for patients in the U.K.
The life science industry is seen as essential to the U.K. economy and is a fundamental part of the growth strategy. The Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences shows a commitment to support the U.K. as a global center of excellence. However, the government has recognized that to win the global race, it needs to do more to attract new investment and create new jobs and economic opportunities in an increasingly competitive industry.
LifeSciencesUK welcomes the positive developments already underway and praises initiatives such as the Biomedical Catalyst and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, which have improved the opportunities for collaboration between individuals and organizations across the NHS, academia, industry and voluntary sector.
However, they recognize that “beyond doubt,” the implementation of some government commitments has been inconsistent and, in some cases, yet to deliver anything close to their stated ambition. These initiatives include the Innovation Scorecard and the Earlier Access to Medicines Scheme.
Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of the ABHI, said, "The Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences has made real progress over the past two years, which has had a positive impact on the life sciences industry, something ABHI would strongly like to see continue. It is important that the good work done on initiatives such as the growth of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) fund to $137.2 million, Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), the Innovation Scorecard and the NICE Implementation Collaborative (NIC) is not undermined. By maintaining a strong and productive relationship with industry, the NHS could deliver the savings that would remove the need for short-term cost saving measures, such as those seen around procurement, and the cancellation of initiatives such as the Specialized Commissioning Innovation Fund.”
He said, “The role of the AHSNs as a catalyst for the spread of innovation should be strengthened by committing to funding for five years. ABHI remains committed to working with government to improve the uptake of innovative technologies, improving patient care across the NHS and bringing the best of global health experience to bear."
Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI, said, "With this report we must celebrate the successes we have so far seen relating to the Strategy for UK Life Sciences, but we also need to be realistic in our appraisal and acknowledge that a lot more needs to be done to ensure patients truly benefit from the innovation that exists in the life sciences sector. The pharmaceutical industry is ready to play its part in defining next steps and working together with government and the NHS to move the strategy forward and deliver on the ambitions set for the U.K. economy, the NHS and patients."
Steve Bates, chief executive of the BIA, said, "The coalition government has made progress with its Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences. In particular, the Biomedical Catalyst has been well received by companies across the bioscience sector and the National Biologics Manufacturing Center will provide a valuable resource for the development of new technologies. However, the failure to introduce a fully funded Earlier Access to Medicines Scheme, which will allow U.K. patients to benefit from the most promising new treatments, needs to be addressed immediately."
Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of BIVDA, said, "The last two years of the government's Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences have seen lots of good progress, and BIVDA is confident the relationships that have been built between industry and the NHS stand us in good stead for the future. However the finance aspect of IHW has still not been resolved and, together with recent changes to procurement policy, there remains cause for concern. In Vitro Diagnostics have a growing role to play in the shift toward outcome-based commissioning and in tackling antimicrobial resistance, and BIVDA would welcome dialogue on how we can work constructively with the NHS on cost containment without losing sight of how in-vitro diagnostics can improve patient care."