Pharmaceutical industry sets out manifesto for the next Northern Ireland Assembly

The pharmaceutical industry has set out five recommendations for the next Northern Ireland Assembly to deliver better health and care for patients, recover from the pandemic and deliver economic and jobs growth over the next term.   

Northern Ireland’s pharmaceutical industry has been identified as one of five sectors with the highest growth potential by the Department of the Economy and has seen employment flourish to 18,000 people in research and manufacturing jobs across the country.  

In advance of May's elections, we’re calling on all political parties and future MLAs to build on the success of Northern Ireland's pharmaceutical industry so we can continue to deliver for patients and the economy. Marion Laverty

Ahead of May’s election, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has published its ‘2022 Northern Ireland Manifesto’ with five key recommendations for future MLAs to see this growth continue and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

Marion Laverty, Public Affairs Manager for ABPI Northern Ireland, says:

"The life sciences industry has been a success story for Northern Ireland, with political leaders recognising the prize to be won. 

"The sector generates over £1.1 billion of GVA in Northern Ireland, demonstrating its value to both our health and wealth.

"In advance of the upcoming elections, we’re calling on all political parties and future MLAs to build on this success, so we can continue to deliver for patients and the economy."

The five recommendations in the manifesto are for MLAs to:

  1. Build a skilled and resilient health and care workforce. Most development of new medicines and vaccines happens in health and care settings, facilitated by health and care staff. From training in research techniques to improved diagnostic, clinical trials, and data analytics services, without a skilled and resilient workforce, we cannot deliver a health service ‘fit for all’. The next Assembly must invest in staffing and skills.
  2. Adopt innovative solutions to reduce patient waiting lists. In the second quarter of 2020, only one Health and Social Care Trust met cancer referral targets set by the health minister. The pandemic has had a real impact on patient waiting lists and making sure patients are screened and diagnosed is critical to getting them the right treatment and helping increase participation in research. 

    Industry can help with new approaches to bring down waiting lists, such as mobile cancer screening. The next Assembly must encourage health and care to embrace cross-sector working to get patient care back on track.
  3. Increase investment in clinical research. A single pound of public funds invested in research brings a return of £4.14 a year, forever. Yet Northern Ireland invests just £8 per capita from public funds into research annually – about half as much as the rest of the UK. The next Assembly must reduce this imbalance as a priority.
  4. Build public trust in the benefits of sharing health data. Dedicating funding to health service digitisation and developing regulation to facilitate the use of health data will not only deliver greater benefits to patients but also help build confidence and trust in the use of people’s data. This should be a priority for a future-focused Assembly.
  5. Improving access to new treatments. Patients in Northern Ireland should be getting access to the latest medicines and vaccines, and more needs to be done to make sure there is consistency between the five HSC Trusts and with the rest of the UK. 

    Ensuring the commissioning process is properly resourced and making the most of new Integrated Care Partnerships should be high on the list of the new Assembly’s tasks.

Chinmay Bhatt, ABPI Northern Ireland Board Sponsor and UK Managing Director for Novartis said: 

"The life sciences sector works as part of an ecosystem, with the health service, academia and charity sector working together to make Northern Ireland attractive for medical research and to improve the lives of patients. 

"That’s why we’re looking for the next Assembly to drive change in five key areas to support the ecosystem as a whole: staffing, waiting lists, research, data and improving patient access to new treatments.

"With a thriving pharmaceutical industry in Northern Ireland, there’s no reason we can’t start to address these issues during the next term and improve the lives of patients and the strength of our economy."


Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023

The Northern Ireland pharmaceutical sector has seen a boom in recent years with employment in both science and medicines manufacturing increasing by 6% since the last tally in 2015. Wider life sciences employment has increased by 12% in the same period.

Global advances in biomedical research, including developments in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cystic fibrosis, have put Northern Ireland on the map as a destination for global investment.

With life science activity generating an annual GVA – the value of goods and services produced by a sector – for Northern Ireland of over £1.1 billion, the sector is approaching the size of Scotland’s (£1.7 billion GVA a year).

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.