The Liberal Democrats launched their 2017 General Election Manifesto on Wednesday 17 May in London. ‘Change Britain’s Future’ is the Lib Dems vision of “leading the opposition” under Tim Farron.
"To tackle Britain’s productivity problem, the pharmaceutical industry welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ focus on investing in science and innovation to grow the UK economy and deliver prosperity.
"However, if we’re serious about making the UK the go-to place for R&D, the pharmaceutical industry would like to see a clear vision for how people can benefit from the latest scientific advances in medical research.
"So while the additional £6bn a year for the NHS is an important commitment that is welcome by industry, we are concerned that the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto plans for healthcare fail to tackle the issue of poor patient access to the latest medical innovations in the UK.
The £6bn additional funding for the NHS proposed by the Liberal Democrats would be an important immediate commitment to the future of the health service, and the ABPI believes this money could help kick-start the delivery of the services and outcomes that British patients deserve.
Yet while the Lib Dems have articulated an ambition for the NHS to deliver the highest standards of care, ABPI would have liked to see more detail as to how the party would plan to reverse the trend of poor patient access to medical innovations.
Embracing new treatments can help the make the NHS more sustainable, saving resources and staff time. However, despite an agreement that caps 80% of the NHS new medicines bill so that it does not grow by more than an average of 1.1% until the end of 2018, Government figures show that for every 100 patients in countries like France and Germany who get access to a new cost-effective medicine in its first year of launch, only 18 patients in the UK receive the same.
The ABPI is pleased to see the Liberal Democrats are advocating an industrial strategy, and a vision for British business, with science and innovation at its heart.
As part of this, developing a national skills strategy for strategically important sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, would not only help tackle the UK’s productivity problem, but also build a lasting pipeline of highly skilled research and innovation talent that Britain requires.
The UK currently spends 1.6% of GDP on research and development, and as the pharmaceutical industry is the UK’s biggest spender on R&D (£4.2bn in 2015), we welcome the Liberal Democrats’ intention to protect and maintain the science budget, increase the number of catapults, and set out a long-term goal of doubling innovation and research spending across the economy. The UK should be looking to spend at least 3% of GDP on R&D by 2022.
However, with Britain facing Brexit uncertainty and a potential raft of changes facing global business, the ABPI believes we need to give our economy the opportunity to remain competitive for the future if we are to grow jobs, investment and exports. With that in mind, the ABPI would want to see stability in the Corporation Tax rate, instead of the Liberal Democrats’ proposed increase.
The ABPI welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ recognition of the importance of continuing the flow of high-skilled talent to support key sectors of our economy, as well as negotiating access to scientific funding and collaboration opportunities. UK participation in projects such as Horizon 2020 (and its successor) will play an important part in cementing the UK’s position as a leading global hub for science, research and pharmaceuticals.
However, with the Liberal Democrats clear on their Brexit priorities, it is disappointing that their manifesto offers little detail on how they would prioritise patients and the NHS in the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union.
The future of medicines regulation is a critical area that has a significant impact on patients and public health, and the ABPI believes UK alignment and cooperation with the EU framework for medicines regulation can be a common goal for our Government and for member states. This should be a priority objective for all parties directly involved in Brexit talks – as well as parties in opposition.