This morning (Tuesday 17 September) the BIA helped host a senior-level roundtable discussion at Liberal Democrat party conference discussing the question “Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?”. The attendees were joined by Paul Burstow MP, a recent Liberal Democrat health Minister, and Jeremy Purvis, former Member of the Scottish Parliament and newly announced Peer.

To discuss the theme attendees were drawn from right across the life sciences spectrum from industry to medical research charities and from GP representatives to patient representative groups. The BIA worked with other trade bodies BIVDA, ABPI, ABHI and AMRC to host the event at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The attendees heard from three speakers each outlining a case study that spoke to the theme of the breakfast – do the NHS and life sciences work together as effectively as possible? The case studies spoke to the wide range of initiatives underway to tackle that very point and the breadth and depth of integration needed to improve patient outcomes.

Shona Brearley, National Programme Manager at SHARE, outlined that new initiative which aims to connect patients more effectively with research they may be suitable and eligible to participate in. Based in Scotland, the SHARE initiative has had a successful start delivering key metrics such as first global patients recruited to trials in a time effective manner. The programme has buy-in from senior policymakers and NHS infrastructure allowing for an effective, transparent and consensual use of patient data to ensure individuals hear about clinical research they might wish to participate in.

Wajid Shafique, of Alere, spoke about that company’s efforts to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed to patients given the rising and serious issue of anti-microbial resistance in the UK and globally. Attendees heard how a quick and simple diagnostic test could help prevent unnecessary prescriptions – a particularly relevant topic given the government’s recently announced Anti-Microbial Strategy.

Finally, Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, spoke about their Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre. The centre seeks to work in the translational space collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure an effective and streamlined approach to clinical research and development, based in part upon work taken forward with the Translational Research Partnerships initiative.

Attendees were able to discuss a range of issues with the policymakers in the room about the use of patient data and the resource the UK has at its disposal through the NHS, incentives for ongoing research and development and aspects of the clinical research infrastructure that is in place in the UK. A theme running throughout the conversation was the need for continued and genuine collaboration between the various parts of the life sciences ecosystem, including the NHS, to ensure the UK makes the most of the resources at its potential and to, ultimately, seek improved clinical outcomes.