A number of key issues have arisen in recent days following the ministerial changes made by the new Prime Minister. See MAP’s summary of the recent updates:
The life sciences sector in the new Government is in a difficult state after the loss of George Freeman, the Minister for Life Sciences. He has not been replaced so his duties have been split up.
In the Department of Health, responsibility for technology and life sciences innovation has been given to Nicola Blackwood MP, whilst the life sciences industry comes under Lord Prior. It is unclear what exactly this distinction means, but as, in practice, Nicola Blackwood is also responsible for public health, a very important area in its own right, it seems likely that Lord Prior will have the more senior role. Furthermore, he has responsibility for drug spending, which is a crucial element for the life sciences industry. Both are Under-Secretaries of State.
In the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Minister responsible for the Office for Life Sciences has yet to be announced.
The future spending on medicines in the NHS is part of a much wider issue. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement (usually delivered in November or early December) will set out the Government’s position on growth, employment, inflation and the budget deficit in the current and future years. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are still committed to reducing the budget deficit, even though the targets are expected to be pushed back into the 2020s. Although the Chancellor understands the NHS, having been a Shadow Health Minister in Opposition, there will be limits to what he can do. Even if some new relief is provided, the pressures on the NHS finances will not go away.
Ministers are also aware of the concern expressed by the life sciences industry about the future of science in the UK. Assuming that the industry continues to press its case, this will be among the issues being considered by the Chancellor before he makes his Statement.