NHS Records Access For Life Science Firms

E-Petition Heaps Pressure On NHS Reform Bill

NHS patient records would be shared with private health care companies including firms which test on animals under new government plans.

David Cameron will promise closer links between the health service and the life science sector in a speech tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is expected to say that the controversial industry could become a powerhouse of the British economy if regulation can be eased.

It currently has an annual turnover of £50bn and already employs 160,000 people across 4,500 companies.

It is thought the proposals would also give private firms more freedom to run clinical trials inside NHS hospitals.

However patients' groups are unlikely to support the move amid concerns about confidentiality and the security of people's details.

A government spokesman said all efforts would be made to protect the privacy of patients:

"The life sciences industry is of vital importance to the UK economy and we are committed to greater collaboration with the NHS to ensure that patients can get faster access to valuable treatments.

"All necessary safeguards would be in place to ensure protection of patients' details - the data will be anonymised and the process will be carefully and robustly regulated.

"Healthcare charities, researchers and clinicians are calling for this action in order to improve research, innovation and the development of medicines in the UK."

The decision is also likely to be unpopular with animal rights groups who would be unhappy with firms who test on animals being granted access to NHS information.

Mr Cameron's speech is also expected to outline plans to grant cancer sufferers and other seriously ill patients early access to new drugs before they are fully licensed.

:: Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP will be live on Murnaghan on Sky News from 10am.