The Conservative Party launched their 2017 General Election manifesto on Thursday 18 May in Halifax. ‘Forward, Together’ is the Conservatives' vision for the UK under the leadership of Theresa May.
Key policy announcements
"For Britain to meet The Conservative Party's ambition of being the most innovative country in the world, it will need to maintain and grow its world-leading pharmaceutical industry, recognised as a sector of strategic importance in this manifesto.
The ABPI welcomes the Conservatives approach to tackling UK business productivity and growth through an Industrial Strategy that would help to secure the economy and deliver prosperity. This includes a commitment to grow and maintain our science base, a promise of further investment in R&D, and a new strategy to develop much needed STEM skills.
Yet, the strength of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK will also depend on securing the right Brexit deal, and securing an ambitious, world-class healthcare system.
To deliver this, the pharmaceutical industry believes the NHS will require a longer-term sustainable funding solution and we will also need to take greater steps to reverse poor UK patient access to medicines and treatments."
The Conservative Party's headline commitment of a minimum of £8bn for the NHS in real terms by 2022 is a recognition that action is required to uphold the standards and quality of care an ageing British population expects. However, as recognised by a recent House of Lords Select Committee report on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS, there is a need to deliver a longer-term sustainable funding solution to achieve a more ambitious, world-class health service.
An NHS that embraces innovation can be the route to greater productivity and sustainability, as well as healthier lives for us all, and the ABPI welcomes The Conservative Party's commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review, which can play a part in realising this. However, this will only apply to a very small number of new medicines and it is vital that more is done to reverse the trend of poor UK patient access to medical innovations. Recently published Government statistics 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 Conservative Party have also committed to ending significant variations in outcomes and quality across services and across the country, and the ABPI believes this must include unwarranted variation in patient access to new medicines which varies substantially depending on where you live. The ABPI shares this Conservative Party ambition, and believe that medicines have a key role to play. We want to play our part through a system that balances the need to reward the pharmaceutical industry for innovation while also securing the best value for money for the NHS.
When utilised to its potential, the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) is the mechanism for this. The current agreement caps 80% of the NHS new medicines bill so that it does not grow by more than an average of 1.1% between 2014-18. Any expenditure over the cap is refunded by PPRS member companies, who between them have already paid back £1.7bn. The ABPI look forward to negotiating a new voluntary PPRS with the Government when the current scheme ends in 2018.
As a leading industry for growth and innovation in the UK, the ABPI is pleased to see the Conservatives' ambition for Britain to be the most innovative country in the world. To meet this goal, the ABPI welcomes The Conservative Party's approach to Industrial Strategy, specifically through a commitment to continue existing work on an Industrial Strategy for Life Sciences.
With government supporting and promoting our world-leading pharmaceutical industry, we could help secure further investment across the UK, stimulate the growth of vibrant start-ups and existing sector leaders, and deliver effective and efficient healthcare for future generations.
The Conservative Party's commitment to develop stronger research links between industry and the NHS is also positive. If we capitalise on the potential of the NHS to provide an infrastructure that enables the collection, access and use of real world healthcare data, and move to ensure patients can access the best modern treatments, the ABPI believes the UK will attract more clinical research investment and improve health outcomes for everyone.
As the most research-intensive business sector in the UK, the ABPI welcomes the Conservatives' commitment to build upon the 2016 Autumn Statement and increase research and development spending as a percentage of GDP from 1.7% to the OECD average.
With over a quarter of pharmaceutical employment involving highly skilled R&D roles, it is essential that the sector continue to have access to a highly skilled workforce in order to achieve its potential. The ABPI welcomes the Conservatives' commitment to deliver the STEM skills development and training Britain has required for decades, but it is imperative in the current climate that the UK also positions itself to be open and accessible to highly-skilled scientists, academics and employers.
The ABPI would support the work of the independent Migration Advisory Committee to identify key skills areas in which the UK intends to excel, and we would call for a system that is responsive to the needs of business. In addition, while the ABPI recognises there is a difficult balance for government to strike, we would urge caution in any immediate doubling of the Immigration Skills Charge. A tax on talent risks cutting off the fuel that supplies the pipeline of highly skilled workers our pharmaceutical industry needs.
The Conservative Party have stated an intention for the UK to continue to participate and contribute towards specific European programmes. The ABPI would welcome UK's continued participation in projects such as Horizon 2020 (and its successor). This will provide the opportunity to collaborate at scale and make sure the UK continues to lead the global effort of tackling the most challenging public health issues.
Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry sees there will be significant benefit to patients and public health if Britain remains a key participant in European regulatory procedures and decisions for medicines. Negotiating a UK cooperation agreement with the European Medicines Agency is the best way to bring innovative, effective and safe medical technologies to UK patients quickly. We would hope for more detail on this should The Conservative Party be returned to government on June 8.