Various elements within the healthcare sector have been responding to Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement which included a previously-reported £2 billion cash boost for the NHS and increasing the rate of R&D tax credit.

Confirming earlier announcements, Mr Osborne said £2 billion will be given “every year to the frontline of the NHS”, made possible “because of careful management”. He said that this is “not money that busts our plans, but extra money available because we have a plan”.

He also noted “instead of returning the foreign exchange fines paid by the banks back to the City”, the government would use that windfall for a “£1.2 billion investment in GP services across the UK. A down-payment on the NHS’s own plan”.

‘Recycled money and dodgy bankers’ fines’

However, the move cut little ice with National Health Action party co-leader Clive Peedell. He argued that Mr Osborne “is trying to fool voters with a pre-election NHS bribe using recycled NHS money and dodgy bankers’ fines. But the public won’t fall for it”.

He claimed that the Tories “have forced £20 billion of cuts onto the NHS and wasted £3 billion on a damaging reorganisation”. Dr Peedell went on to say that “£2 billion is too little to save the public from an NHS crisis and too late to save the Tories from an election crisis_”.

The chancellor’s decision to up the rate of R&D tax credits for small and medium-sized companies from 225% to 230% and for large ones to 11%, got a warmer welcome. Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry chief executive Stephen Whitehead said the move “will have a beneficial impact on business investment in the UK for both smaller and larger firms”. He was also pleased that Mr Osborne has allocated increased funds to the NHS “at what is a challenging time”.

However Mr Whitehead said “we are concerned that proposed changes to the Patent Box” disclosed earlier this week, “may affect incentives for investment in R&D.”

‘Google Tax’ to hurt pharma?

Some of the ABPI’s members will also be concerned at Mr Osborne’s plans to introduce a 25% tax “on profits generated by multinationals from economic activity here in the UK which they then artificially shift out of the country”. Observers believe that the move, while principally aimed at the likes of Google and Amazon who have been accused of paying tiny amounts of tax, could also affect big pharma.