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UK government pledges £650m for medical research

Posted on the 26th May 2023

GP Health Boost 650m

The UK government is promising a £650 million package to boost life sciences and lure pharmaceutical giants to Britain.

The plans announced by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, could see financial incentives paid to GPs who recruit patients into trials of new treatments.

It is hoped the move could reverse a slump in clinical testing in the UK with tens of thousands more patients being signed up to them.

Meanwhile, drug companies will be given improved access to the NHS in a bid to expand the economy and develop cutting-edge treatments.

The package also includes measures aimed at reviving the “Oxford-Cambridge arc” of high-tech development through the introduction of looser planning rules for laboratory spaces.

The £94 billion life sciences industry is one of Britain’s biggest and is seen by the government as an engine for growth in a sluggish economy.

The industry, however, has complained of bureaucracy, inertia and cultural resistance in an overstretched NHS after a collapse in medical research since Covid.

The number of patients enrolled in industry trials has fallen from 50,000 in 2018 to 28,000 last year and ministers have accepted in full the recommendations of a report by Lord O’Shaughnessy, a former health minister, designed to reverse this trend.

The report also recommends quadrupling the number of patients in trials by 2027.

This goal has been backed by Hunt who added: “It’s a very important part of the offer to life science companies that they don’t just do their R&D here, but they’re able to trial their drugs on human beings.”

Additionally, the chancellor is promising £121 million to speed up regulatory approval for trials and to eliminate backlogs at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which lost staff to cut costs.

Hunt is also promising companies developing new drugs “a one-contract-fits-all approach in the NHS, [so] you can sign a contract with one hospital and it will work in all the hospitals.”

Earlier this year, a scientific think tank said plans by the UK government to make the country a science and technology superpower by 2030 would not be achieved unless more funding was made available.

Related: Scientists dub UK science plan a ‘sticking plaster’

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