Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday outlined his plan to share National Health Service patient data with private pharmaceutical companies, noting that “life science – and the UK’s role in it – is at a crossroads.”

“To keep pace with what’s happening we’ve got to change radically… the way we innovate, the way we collaborate, the way we open up the NHS,” Cameron said at a pharmaceutical conference in London. “We’re going to consult on actually changing the NHS constitution, so that the default is for patients’ data to be used for research – unless of course they want to opt out.”

According to Cameron, sharing NHS data would allow Britain to become a world leader in life sciences through faster access to new treatments.

“This does not threaten privacy, it doesn't mean anyone can look at your health records, but it does mean using anonymous data to make new medical breakthroughs,” said Cameron.

Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, commented on Cameron’s plans, noting, "Labour prioritized support for the life science sector and we agree that it must be an important part of Britain's industrial future. But the Prime Minister has to tread carefully. What he calls red tape others might see as essential safeguards. Some areas need proper regulation and patient records is certainly one of them. Where we have a big difference with the PM is on his willingness to open up the NHS to the private sector. He sees no limit on the involvement of the private sector and says he wants it to be a 'fantastic business'. In his desperation to develop a credible industrial strategy, he seems willing to put large chunks of our NHS up for sale.”

The Prime Minister’s speech drew praise from GlaxoSmithKline, which stated, "The Government’s strategy for Life Sciences is a very important next step on the journey to make the UK the best place in the world to locate pharmaceutical investment. The actions on research and manufacturing will further strengthen the attractiveness of the UK and most importantly the results of the Innovation Review should ensure that the NHS is a stronger adopter of innovative medicines and technology, ensuring that all patients can benefit from cost-effective treatments and interventions approved by NICE.”