There has been a mixed response to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Budget statement from the differing UK healthcare stakeholders.

The Ethical Medicines Industry Group, which represents the interests of over 200 mainly small to medium-sized companies in the UK, applauded the government's R&D tax credits. From April, it will increase the rate of the payable credit to lossmakers from 11% to 14.5%, so for example, a loss-making SME investing £100,000 in qualifying R&D will be able to claim a cash payment of £32,600, £7,800 more than under the existing scheme.

EMIG chairman Leslie Galloway said the increased tax credit is recognition that "SMEs have a large part to play in helping Britain lead the global race" in research. He added that these firms are estimated to contribute 80% of the country’s innovation.

Mr Galloway also highlighted the Chancellor's announcement that the government will invest £55 million in a UK cell therapy manufacturing centre to be managed by the Cell Therapy Catapult. He said it will help drive innovation in biosciences, "an area in which the UK is already punching above its weight".

Keith Thompson, chief executive of the Cell Therapy Catapult, said the new centre will be accessible to firms scaling up for Phase III trials and market supply, "bridging the gap between early manufacturing and commercialisation". He added that "we are delighted to be managing this initiative, which addresses one of the industry's main barriers to growth".

His comments were echoed by the BioIndustry Association chief executive Steve Bates who said the centre "will help establish the UK as global centre for cell therapy manufacturing". He went on to say that the change to the R&D tax credit regime "is commendable and shows serious support for innovators."

Doctors not impressed

The Budget, which also included a pledge of £106 million over five years for doctoral training centres, was less well received by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said "we are really disappointed that another opportunity to address the massive funding gap in general practice has come and gone. "Unfortunately, it is our patients who will bear the brunt of another year without additional funding and the consequences could be catastrophic for patient safety".

Dr Baker noted that "there are over 340 million consultations in general practice per year - around 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS. GPs are wilting under the pressure of trying to meet the demands of a growing and ageing population whilst the share of government funding that general practice receives is at an all-time low of 8.39%".

She concluded by saying that "If the government is serious about alleviating pressures on hospitals and providing more care in the community, it must act now and urgently put plans in place to increase investment in general practice to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017".