The Life Science sector has responded positively to the Chancellor’s announcement of £5bn funding for health-related research and development, and a further £5.9bn for the NHS, in the autumn budget.

European Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Magazine reports that the £5bn R&D investment will be split over three years, and part of the funding will go towards the new Community Diagnostic Centre Network. The network consists of community diagnostic hubs, described as ‘one-stop-shops’ which can carry out CT scans and other tests and checks.

The £5.9bn allocated to the NHS is intended to help clear the backlog that has built up during the Covid-19 pandemic. £2.1bn of the funding will be spent on improving digital technology and IT infrastructure, which are currently seen as outdated and difficult to operate.

BIVDA CEO Doris-Ann Williams said: “The backlog funding package will help the NHS to alleviate the heavy pressure being placed on the service as 5.7 million people await care. BIVDA’s IVD member companies stand ready to play their part in the diagnostic process.

She added: “It is essential that IVD companies of all sizes can access the R&D funding to develop novel diagnostics and bring them to market. The access to funding must be clearly signposted and we are pleased to see testing being brought closer to home in communities.”

Pharmaphorum reports that The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and BioIndustry Association (BIA) have said that the R&D funding increase recognises the immense achievements of the industry during the pandemic, when a vaccine was developed and distributed in a very short timescale.

Some of the funding will go towards the drive to tackle cancer, obesity, and mental health problems, and a further portion will help the NHS access new technologies. The government has committed to an overall increase of £22bn in funding for the biopharma industry by 2026/27.

A further increase of £1bn funding by 2024 was announced for Innovate UK. This will ensure the continuation of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded Biomedical Catalyst programme, which helps businesses develop and test new healthcare products.

There were also grants for pharmaceutical manufacturing, which should encourage further private sector investment, and maintain the current interest overseas investors are showing in the UK’s life sciences sector.

While there has been a positive reaction from the industry as a whole, and the extra funding for the NHS is welcome, critics have pointed out that it fails to tackle the overwhelming workforce shortages that the health service is faced with.

The Observer recently reported that ministers have been warned of a mounting staffing crisis in England’s hospitals. There are currently around 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses, leaving some wards dangerously understaffed. The number of recruits from mainland Europe has dropped significantly since Brexit, NHS bosses say.

The government has set a target to increase the amount of NHS nurses by 50,000 by 2025. To fulfil this pledge, it is likely that significant overseas recruitment will be needed. Meanwhile, the NHS is facing a very difficult winter ahead, will the potential for a flu pandemic alongside the uncertain Covid situation.

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