Life sciences strategy: NHS must be ‘supported and resourced’ to play part

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The NHS Confederation has thrown its support behind a set of recommendations designed to get the most out of the UK’s cutting-edge life sciences research, but said the NHS must be 'supported, encouraged and resourced' to play its part.

The recommendations, put forward by Sir John Bell in the Life sciences: Industrial strategy, include encouraging collaboration between the NHS and industry through adopting the Accelerated Access Review and delivering a reinforced skills action plan across the NHS, commercial and third sectors.

Backed by £160m of government funding, the plan argues that the NHS must have an active role in any life science strategy which works for patients and boosts the economy.

"This agenda is central to ensuring and improving [the NHS] for future generations and complements many of the objectives set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward Review" writes Sir John Bell.

"Furthermore, many of the steps outlined in this strategy are opportunities uniquely available to the NHS."

Welcoming the report, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said that if the strategy is to fulfil its potential, the NHS must be 'supported, encouraged and resourced to play its part'. Writing in The Telegraph, he outlined four areas where action is required:

  • Profits from discoveries in research and innovation should be shared by the NHS trusts most heavily involved in collaborating on the development of breakthroughs.
  • A much less risk-averse culture is needed, in which regulators and others are willing to support innovation.
  • Wider investment in the health service is vital.
  • More support needed to develop the relationship between university teaching hospitals and their academic partners. "It is within university hospitals that much of the groundwork takes place, and the success of the life sciences strategy will depend to a significant degree on the support of these trusts and their partners."
In a separate statement, Niall said: “Life sciences and other areas of health and care research should be seen for what they are major assets for the UK economy – not a cost to the taxpayer.

“As Brexit negotiations continue we [Brexit Health Alliance] urge the government to remember that life sciences, the development of cutting-edge medical innovations, generates billions each year.”

He added: “The government should look closely at how research could be affected by the UK leaving the EU and how we keep our leading role in international medical research.”

Life sciences are one of the most successful sectors in the UK economy, generating around £66bn per annum, three times more than Germany’s equivalent sector.

Find out more

Access the life sciences strategy from the Gov.UK website.

Discover why university hospitals will be crucial to success in our infographic produced with the Association of UK University Hospitals.

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