Some NHS staff need to “overcome cultural disdain” about profit motives to work with pharmaceutical and technology companies to reverse the sharp drop in UK clinical trials, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Streeting outlined a plan to improve patient outcomes by putting clinical research back at the heart of the health service, ahead of the release of a government-commissioned report. report on the decline in lawsuits.

His speech comes as Labor’s plans for the NHS and social care come under increased scrutiny, and health will be a key battleground in the next general election, which is due to take place in January 2025.

“It is not bad that the people who present new ideas, new inventions, new treatments are in the private sector. I think we have to get over some cultural put-downs there,” Streeting said, criticizing the “inherently suspicious” attitude of some on the left and in the NHS towards profit motives.

While noting Labor’s commitment to a publicly funded health service, free at the point of use, Streeting said it had to work in partnership with pharmaceutical and technology companies to carry out further testing.

“The NHS cannot lose hundreds of millions of pounds of commercial trial revenue almost accidentally and not worry about it,” he said, adding that ministers had been “asleep at the wheel” over the UK’s position on life sciences. .

Ahead of the launch of a health care “mission” by the party in the coming weeks, Streeting and Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer on Friday discussed improving cancer care and early diagnosis of the disease with leading researchers from academia, industry and charities.

The number of clinical trials in the UK has fallen by 41 per cent since 2017, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, and the country has moved from fourth to 10th place on the list of the most popular countries to conduct trials in. advanced stage.

In March, a high profile association with Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis to launch a cholesterol-lowering drug was scrapped because many doctors were unwilling to prescribe it. Some experts said the reluctance of GPs was partly due to mistrust in the pharmaceutical industry.

Streeting said practical reasons also needed to be “overcome” to improve the landscape for drug trials.

If elected to government, Labor aims to to create a standard system for successful drug trials and rollout across the NHS, following criticism from companies over the fragmented nature of the current setup.

Streeting said the party’s plan to double the number of places in medical schools and increase training for nurses and midwives would free up time for more doctors to work on research.

He said Labor would also make it easier to take part in clinical trials by using the NHS app to contact willing patients, describing as “outrageous” the government’s failure to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of people who gave consent. to participate in trials for the Covid-19 vaccine for other studies.

Big pharmaceutical companies have warned that a sharp increase in a tax on drug costsrising corporate tax and the difficulty of introducing innovative products to the NHS are reducing the attractiveness of investing in the UK.

Streeting accused the government of jeopardizing the UK’s position as a leader in the sector.

“Some of our life sciences leaders sometimes find the government seems and acts almost actively disinterested and surprisingly accommodating with some pretty big investment decisions. And as a result, there are undoubtedly jobs and investments and contracts that have gone elsewhere,” he said.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it was building a life sciences vision “to tackle some of the biggest public health challenges facing the UK, backed by £113m”.

“We already deliver on our commitment to launch innovative new healthcare missions that will improve patient health outcomes across the country,” he said, adding that the clinical trial review would help “find new ways to accelerate the diagnosis and improve treatment. . . as well as cementing our position as a superpower in life sciences.”

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