Last week at the Labour party conference the BIA held the second in a series of events to pose the question ‘Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?’, in collaboration with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and other UK life science trade bodies ABPI, BIVDA and ABHI.

On Wednesday 25 September attendees came from the biopharmaceutical industry, learned societies, medical research charities and the NIHR for the breakfast event in Brighton. They were joined by MPs Andrew Miller (Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee) and Iain Wright (Shadow Minister for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills).

Following introductions around the table – and some hearty bacon sandwiches – three case studies were presented which reflected aspects of the relationship between the NHS and life science research and development.

In the first case study Laura Williams, Senior Public Affairs Manager at Cancer Research UK discussed their Stratified Medicine Programme, which aims to lay the foundations for stratified medicine development.

The next case study came from Nomagugu Khumalo, Clinical Trials Officer from the North West London Diabetes Research Network. Noma outlined how the Network functions to proactively put patients in touch with suitable clinical trials.

The final case study was from Dan Beety at Bayer and Vince Holder at Bristol Myers Squibb concerning Novel Oral AntiCoagulants (NOACs), a safer alternative to warfarin for the treatment of atrial Fibrillation and therefore prevention of stroke. Despite the benefits and recognition as a ‘high impact innovation’, there has been less uptake of NOACs within the NHS than expected. The attendees felt that this example clearly highlighted the need for improved uptake of innovation in the NHS.

Between case studies, the attendees discussed related issues with the policymakers, including the need for a market at the end of the research and development pipeline, and areas where the UK risks falling behind other nations such as in instituting an Early Access scheme. The work of the NIHR and the Health Research Authority towards a single sign-off regulatory process was highlighted as a positive step, as was the role of the new Academic Health Science Networks in joining up innovation, commerce and patients.

In summing up the discussion, Andrew Miller MP and Iain Wright MP were in agreement that for the NHS to be in a position to offer patients novel innovations there will need to be a sound understanding of business policy and healthcare economics across government departments and considering both local and national levels of the NHS.

Read a blog about the roundtable discussion at the Liberal Democrat conference here.