Britain to 'open up' state health to industry: Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron was Monday to unveil plans which could allow patient records held by Britain's nationalised health service to be shared with private firms in a bid to boost its ailing economy.
Cameron was set to make a speech outlining the government's strategy for the life-science industry, in which he was to insist on "opening up" the National Health Service (NHS) in order to make health a "huge magnet" for economic growth.
"We're going to be more flexible, more competitive, more hungry for your business than ever before," he was to tell industry leaders in London, according to a press release issued by his Downing Street office.
"The most crucial, fundamental thing we're doing is opening up the NHS to new ideas," he was to add.
"The end-game is for the NHS to be working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world, acting as a huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food-chain - from the labs to the boardrooms to the hospital bed."
This corporation could include allowing private life-science companies to use state-funded hospitals and to access anonymous NHS patient records, Britain' press reported Sunday.
Andy Burnham, health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, promised to fight the proposals, saying: "We will not allow David Cameron to throw away essential safeguards in his desperation to develop a credible industrial strategy."
Privacy activist Nick Pickles also criticised the plans, adding: "It is for patients, not the government, to decide what happens with their medical information.
"It appears that commercial interests are being put ahead of patient privacy and that is unacceptable," said Pickles, the director of civil liberties group Big Brother.
The government was to announce a two-pronged strategy for modernising the industry, according to Monday's press release.
Firstly, it will introduce a £180 million ($280.7 million, 209.7 million euros) "catalyst fund" to help bring innovative techniques and products to market.
It is also consulting on an "early access scheme" to expedite the introduction of new drugs and technologies into NHS hospitals.
"Britain has the potential to become a powerhouse in the world's life sciences industry," a government source told the Sunday Telegraph.
"We want to see much closer collaboration between the NHS and life-science companies - not just greater data-sharing, but more clinical trials in hospitals," added the source.
Britain's life-sciences industry employs more than 160,000 people and has an annual turnover of around £50 billion.
© 2011 AFP