Improving access to medicines in the UK

The UK is a world leader in pharmaceutical research and development, and it is vital that NHS patients are able to access the latest treatments as fast as patients in other countries.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that many medicines have actually been invented in the UK, the NHS has been typically slower to introduce new medicines compared to other countries.


For every 100 patients in countries like France and Germany, for example, only 18 patients would get access to a new medicine in the first year of launch here in the UK, and that's something we really need to turn round.


The only way in which the NHS is going to cope, particularly with an ageing population in the coming years is to make the best use of new technology so we are working with government and the NHS, to try and turn this around.


That's going to require effort from all sides, including the industry, and it means we're going to have to work together earlier in the process.


We're going to have to make sure the NHS understands what we're developing, so that the right planning can be done to make sure these medicines are introduced as quickly as possible.

Why is it important to improve access to medicine in the UK?

Despite the UK’s leading position as an innovator in pharmaceuticals and the existence of multiple mechanisms to help the NHS to control its spend on medicines, the UK is slow at adopting new treatments.

UK has less access to new medicines

For every 100 patients that get a new medicine in its 1st year of launch in other parts of the EU – including France and Germany – just 21 patients in the UK get access.

There is also significant variation across the UK when it comes to accessing different types of medicines.

Patient Access Vs France And Germany Still
Patient Access Vs France And Germany

Access for to new medicines for UK patients is lower compared to patients in France and Germany

If we want UK patients to have world-class healthcare we don’t just need to invest more, we also need to prioritise ensuring early access to innovation.

We need to invest more in the NHS, not just for medicines but across all areas including prevention and diagnosis.

Investing in UK healthcare will not only benefit patients but will also help to secure the future of UK science and R&D and the ability to remain a world-leader in hospital-based research including clinical trials.

Last modified: 16 May 2024

Last reviewed: 16 May 2024