UK government make health data available in bid to boost R&D sector

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Pharma companies and contract research organisations will soon be able to view important UK health data.

For the first time, the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care’s services include providing the pharmaceutical industry with patients’ records from GP and hospital care – something available in few other countries.

In his Autumn review, chancellor George Osbourne said releasing the UK’s detailed, anonymised medical data would boost health research for R&D (research and development) teams.

A statement released by the Department of Health stated: “The UK is uniquely placed as being one of the few countries to have a universal ‘cradle to grave’ health system boasting some of the most detailed, anonymised information on patients.

“The UK has the potential to lead the world as a location for data-enabled health research, with direct benefit to patients, via the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.”

The government now has high hopes for the new measures, which were developed in collaboration with almost 120 existing commercial enterprises, including GlaxoSmithKline, Experian and SAS UK.

In a paper titled ‘Further Detail on Open Data Measures in the Autumn Statement 2011’​, the Cabinet wrote : “A recent report estimated the current total direct and indirect economic value of public sector information at €140 billion per year for the EU27 (Vickery/ EU Commission, 2011)1.

“This suggests that similar information in the UK is already worth in the region of £16 billion a year.

“Release of public sector information is designed to support growth and encourage the next Skype or Apple to come out of the UK.”

Boosting UK R&D

Keen to bolster clinical research after a recent slump in activities at pharma giants like Pfizer, the UK government also announced a new tax credit scheme. The chancellor said the new above the line scheme, to be introduced in 2013, will help boost R&D for big firms.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), CEO Stephen Whitehead gave the move the thumbs up, saying: "Extending R&D tax credits to larger firms will encourage pharmaceutical companies to further invest in their own business and in new medicines."

Of his hopes for the future, he added: “Building on today’s announcement, we are expecting a range of further measures to support the Life Sciences sector to be announced shortly.

“It is important these upcoming proposals deliver the reforms that our sector needs if, as is the Chancellor’s ambition, the pharmaceutical industry is to be a long term driver of economic growth in the UK.”

However the move has not quieted everybody. BIA (The BioIndustry Association) said the measures could have gone further.

“The measures announced by the Chancellor…represent a very small step towards helping bioscience companies in need of finance,” ​said Glyn Edwards, interim BIA chief executive.

“As always, we look forward to seeing the detail, but it certainly appears that there is much more the Chancellor could do to encourage investment in bioscience companies in the current economic climate.”

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