Leaders in the UK life sciences industry are concerned about the nation's position as a centre for global pharmaceutical R&D, a new report reveals.

There is still a feeling that the government could be doing more to support the industry, while doubts persist about value-based pricing (VBP) and how it will fit within a new broader pricing system, according to the second annual UK Life Sciences Leaders Survey, which provides an overview of current perceptions within the industry and is sponsored by RSA, a global life sciences executive search and interim management firm.

This year's report finds that the top issues for leaders in the sector are the NHS reorganisation, medicine pricing and reimbursement, and employment issues and the cost of research. The findings show that the government "urgently needs to do more to ensure that education, regulation, access to medicines and the NHS research base align to support the industry's continued contribution to the UK economy in this field," comments RSA's chief executive, Nick Stephens.

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said the survey indicates that more need to be done to support biopharmaceutical companies and the NHS in creating an environment where innovation, in all its forms, can be allowed to thrive.

"There is much that the government has done to support the industry, particularly through the Growth Review and the Office for Life Sciences [OLS]. But we need to build on this as part of a continuing relationship with NHS and government to explore how unnecessary bureaucracy can be eliminated from the healthcare system so that new treatments can reach patients as quickly as possible," added Mr Whitehead.

The first RSA survey last year found that the general feeling was optimistic. Leaders believed that the new government would improve the overall business environment, and their comments seemed to focus on three key messages for Ministers; - that the UK was not competing effectively in the global marketplace; - the need to create the right environment for early-phase/smaller companies; and - that the UK, as a country, was failing to make the most of its unique selling proposition (USP), namely the NHS and a talent for innovation and discovery.

However, the overall message coming out of the 2011 survey is that the general feeling of optimism has declined to an even split between the "quite optimistic," the "quite pessimistic" and the "indifferent." The general consensus seems to be that UK competitiveness has deteriorated and the government could be doing more to create the right environment for life sciences to prosper, says RSA.

Sector leaders have told this year's survey that the cost of doing business in the UK has continued to rise and may be driving business offshore to emerging and lower-cost markets. Key cost areas include clinical trials, employment, materials, transport and manufacturing.

Reorganisation in the NHS is also creating challenges for life science industry leaders, as are key issues such as the future medicines pricing systems and changing models of engagement. At least half of those answering the survey's question on VBP said they believe it will reduce market access and lead to the UK falling behind as an early-launch market.

In contrast, respondents broadly welcome health technology assessment (HTA) as a means of enhancing value and meeting therapeutic needs.

Moreover, the UK and European Union (EU) regulatory burden is cited this year as one of the top three issues for preclinical R&D, clinical research and medical departments in general.

Asked what life science organisations should do to weather the current storms, the industry leaders responded that they should innovate, create flexible organisations and processes and refocus R&D.  And ideally, they told the survey, they would place the focus on investing in R&D and making the UK healthcare sector, regulatory and commercial environment better aligned to achieve positive outcomes for patients and the pharmaceutical industry.