Nadhim Zahawi is Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and is MP for Stratford-on-Avon.
One of the Labour Party’s most frustrating tactics during the last election was their invention of the idea that the Conservatives were somehow lining up to “sell off the NHS”. They moved on from the lies of previous elections about how the Tories are going to make you pay for services up front – traditionally what people might describe as ‘privatisation’. But the new fantasy is that we’re now lining up to allow private companies rip off the NHS, and that patients will suffer an ever-worse service.
Luckily the public saw through these politicians parroting on about Donald Trump, the NHS and trade over and over, and the trusted us again with their votes. Voters around the country saw that our party, and our leader, were best placed to care for the system that we rely on to care for us.
Of course, now that we’ve been returned to Government, we can begin the work to show that the public were right to back us on the NHS. Though the truth is that we’ve already started to try and repay that trust. Not only are Ministers already at work delivering Boris Johnson’s promises on nurse numbers and funding levels, but we recently saw an announcement that demonstrates how this Conservative Government will embrace revolutionary ideas in the NHS, while delivering the value for money we need, and supporting the wider economy in the UK.
We all know that tackling big public health issues, like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease is vitally important for the NHS – both to keep people healthy and able to live full and rewarding lives, and to reduce ongoing costs to the taxpayer. Unfortunately, drug companies have traditionally become less adept at finding solutions to these issues, due to the huge cost of developing treatments.
That’s why the NHS has started to lead the way in attempting to make the development, manufacturing and procurement of these new drugs faster and cheaper for everyone involved. All the while getting patients the medicines they need, and maintaining and improving the manufacturing and skills base at home
This new way of working meant were able to announce our first big success recenrly, with a partnership on Inclisiran, a drug originally created by The Medicines Company, before it was bought by Novartis. Inclisiran helps lower cholesterol, via a twice yearly treatment, for those suffering from ASCVD. This disease is a leading case of death and illness in the developed world, where a thickening and loss of elasticity in arterial walls, combined with cholesterol build up, can block blood flow to and from the heart and other organs, eventually causing heart disease or stroke.
The UK was able to start discussions early last year about a specific UK collaboration which will enable a large clinical trial and an implementation research project, NHS commercial discussions about pricing and purchasing, and research into manufacturing too. All delivered in partnership with the private sector, the NHS and the Department for Health and Social Care.
This innovative project means that 30,000 lives could be saved over the next decade, and that’s the most important outcome. But there’s another great benefit too, because this work is a real boost to the life sciences sector in the UK; both in research and in manufacturing. That’s why a phone call to Clive Meanwell, the founder of the Medicines Company, was one of my first tasks when I was appointed to the role of Minister for Business and Industry last year. This is exactly the sort of project our country, our economy and our NHS needs.
We need the UK to be a global leader in bringing medicines to market, securing investment in our life sciences and providing hope for patients, all at reasonable costs to the NHS. This announcement is a great start, and a testament to the hard work of multiple departments – delivering innovative solutions to difficult problems and supporting jobs at home in a real industry of the future. This is the high skilled economy and enhanced NHS that this Conservative Government wants to deliver, to repay the faith of those who voted for us in December – and we’re only just getting started.