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Will life sciences now get strong and stable government?

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Will life sciences now get strong and stable government?



Ian Bolland comments on the recent changes in government in the UK. 

As I write this, the UK has just appointed its fourth Prime Minister in six years. Changes at the top of government tend to mean changes throughout – so anyone in the life sciences sector will have had a keen eye on the announcements of the new cabinet ministers responsible for health and business, energy and industrial strategy.

With long waiting lists meaning a huge backlog to tackle for the NHS, its important the new health secretary Therese Coffey is at least in post until the next general election. I became the editor of this magazine just over two years ago and she will be the fourth health secretary I will be reporting on whenever it comes to new technological adoptions in the NHS. She follows Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid and Steve Barclay in the post during a period of great political instability. 

Of course, instability at the top of the department is not responsible for the millions waiting for treatment or the long hours in A&E but three different health secretaries in the space of just a few months and power vacuums are definitely not going to be helpful.

Adoption of new technology is likely to form a key part of the plan to help NHS get to grip with its current predicament – whether that’s to improve access to care or indeed to speed up time to establish a diagnosis and treatment. If there were to be mass technological adoption during this time, the effects it will have on the NHS for years to come will be profound.

The Office for Life Sciences sits under the Department for Health but also the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with Jacob Rees-Mogg now the secretary of state for the latter. At least this is one department that hasn’t seen so much change recently, and Rees-Mogg’s predecessor in Kwasi Kwarteng is now at the Treasury. One would think that Kwarteng is ideally placed to know any financial incentives that are required for the medical device manufacturing industry – whether that is via tax arrangements or direct investment from central government.

There are a lot of broader challenges in this department that don’t just affect business but everyone on a direct, personal level – notably the energy and fuel costs heading into the winter. But there are also the knock-on effects on the medical device sector with energy costs, of moving and sourcing materials and transportation – all of these are factors that government must consider when it comes to aiding the industry through a difficult time.

We saw at Med-Tech Innovation Expo in June that there is a great appetite for investment and new ideas coming out of our sector but, like everywhere else across supply chains in multiple industries, help and clarity will be required for success in the short and medium term. Ensuring that figureheads at the head of departments remain in place prior to the next general election – in what is sure to be a turbulent period – strikes me as valuable.

Right now, strong and stable (where have we heard that before?) leadership of government departments is what needed from this new administration rather than any rearranging of personnel going forward.