ONE of the world’s biggest drugs firms, which employs more than 1,000 people in a North-East town, has quashed rumours it is considering quitting the UK.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which runs a factory in Barnard Castle, County Durham, has responded to reports it could abandon Britain and delay launching medicines unless the Government pumps an extra £20bn into the NHS.

The claims came from The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) who gave an interview to The Times newspaper after demanding an increase in health spending.

During the interview, Lisa Anson, the new president of the ABPI, suggested a funding squeeze on the NHS could lead to an exodus of drugs firms from Britain.

Ms Anson, who is also the head of drugs firm AstraZeneca, said the future of the £30 billion life sciences sector could be in jeopardy.

She claimed that patients and firms will suffer from an NHS which “rations” treatments, and that firms were “happy to discuss” tax rises to fill the funding gap.

Without an increase in healthcare spending, drugs firms will be unable to carry out clinical trials or develop new drugs against existing treatments, if patients in Britain are not receiving the medicines in the first place, she suggested.

“Recent rationing signals are warning signs that we are eroding the research environment and access to new medicines by eroding the competitiveness of a key sector for a short-term affordability issue," she said.

She also warned the UK would become a “desert for healthcare innovation”.

"If we are ambitious to have the life sciences sector, which is one of the key sectors of the UK economy, (as) world class then our aspiration should be to have a world-class NHS with world-class outcomes for patients.”

The ABPI represents more than 100 medicine manufacturers in the UK, including Pfizer and GSK.

However, a spokesman for GSK, which is set to begin work on a new £94m pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, in Barnard Castle this summer, said the claims were unfounded as the company has no plans to leave the UK.

He said: “GSK is committed to the UK and we are working with the Government to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for life sciences.”