Speaking to the industry for the first time since being elected as Conservative MP for Stourbridge at the recent General Election, James provided the audience of key industry and service company guests with insight into the views of the new coalition Government. It included her thoughts on where she believes the NHS is headed and the role of the Industry in the new Government’s healthcare agenda.
James began by saying that although political life was now her sole purpose, the pharmaceutical industry remained very important to her and has a very special place in her heart.
Since founding Shire Health in 1986, James said that the developments in our industry had been ‘phenomenal’. ‘Those were the days; pre-Tamoxifen for breast cancer and where lack of treatments for mental health conditions such as schizophrenia meant patients could only be treated in mental institutions. These extraordinary changes have come about due to the research and development that the pharmaceutical industry undertakes and we should be proud of what our industry has achieved in this time.’
However, she said the regulatory burden is now so great that the UK is haemorrhaging its clinical research base to Eastern Europe and the Far East; something that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley wants to address in order to retain the clinical research base in the UK.
James went on to say that there have been unbelievable changes in the NHS since 1997 when the Labour Government took power. Up until that point, she said that the Conservative party had a coherent plan for the NHS with fund holding and NHS Trusts.
She believes that the first few years of the last Government turned the clock back on NHS reform. Only since 2002 have the reforms been reinstated and it took some years and many structural changes for the NHS to virtually get back to where it was in 1997.
James talked about how the NHS fitted in to David Cameron’s wider vision for the country as a whole. ‘The new government wants to devolve greater powers and responsibilities to citizens and professionals, empowering people to take control over their lives and have greater choice. There is to be less state interference and intrusion in to people’s lives.’
She added: ‘Policies on healthcare and the NHS fit in to this wider vision. Professionals will have far greater scope to use their own judgement under the new policy. They will be free to exercise that judgement in the interests of patients rather than always in response to Whitehall driven targets. The NHS will be held accountable by outcomes and less by process driven targets. Patients and families too will have a greater say, the service will be accountable to patients at a local level.’
Speaking about what opportunities there might be for Industry, James believes that Pharma companies have huge experience to offer the NHS. Not just in the supply of medicines, but to help the NHS and the journey it is taking. She is hoping that the new Government will release the inertia that has been present.
She believes that opportunities exist for industry and the NHS to work together in a number of areas including:
- Data collection and analysis that could be put at the disposal of the NHS
- Value based pricing
- The ability to work positively with NICE
- Clinical research and development
She believes NICE will move on from producing individual audits of a drug’s clinical and economic benefit, towards assessing the overall management and treatment options in a disease area. Andrew Lansley has said that it is ‘scandalous’ that patients don’t have access to certain modern treatments that are available elsewhere in Western Europe, notably new cancer drugs.