Medical research should be at the heart of being a doctor and at the core of the NHS, doctor leaders have said.
The BMA welcomed a report by the AMRC (Association of Medical Research Charities), which stressed the importance of the NHS engaging with medical research.
They also urged the government to continue its public funding.
A BMA parliamentary briefing document for a Lords debate on the report says: ‘The BMA believes that all NHS providers, especially those taking on new services, should ensure that the opportunities for teaching and research are retained or enhanced.
‘The NHS needs to cultivate an environment that encourages discussions between colleagues and disciplines in order to develop new ideas, and facilitate the application of those ideas.’
The BMA briefing paper stresses that doctors should not be financially disadvantaged because they do research and that there needs to be pay parity and equitable access to CEAs (clinical excellence awards).
‘They undertake multiple roles – clinician, teacher, researcher, medical leader and manager,’ it points out.
‘However, such diversity of functions also makes them vulnerable should funding to one or more of these strands of activity be cut.’
The BMA calls on the government to detail how it intends to fulfil its duty to promote medical research, as set out in the Health and Social Care Act.
During the Lords debate, Lord Turnberg said the AMRC report Our Vision for Research in the NHS should be required reading for everyone in the NHS.
Lord Turnberg, scientific adviser to the AMRC, said it envisaged a future where every patient had the opportunity to engage with research, every health professional understood its value and the NHS conducted high-quality research.
‘We have a long way to go because there is a very patchy, variable picture in practice now,’ he said.
‘We have had many a fine word from ministers, the treasury and even the prime minister about the value of medical research.
‘We now have the duties spelt out in the mandate for NHS England and the CCGs to promote research.
‘It makes economic sense, too, as we know, that there are excellent economic returns from investing in research.’
Lord Turnberg added that patients and doctors needed to have access to better information about research opportunities, and said consultants needed sufficient time for research built into their contracts.
He said research activities should also be taken into account during the assessments for CEAs, a view shared by the BMA.
BMA medical academic staff committee joint deputy chair David Katz said: ‘We are working with colleagues across the BMA to highlight the importance of medical research to the NHS and so welcome both the report and the excellent debate initiated by Lord Turnberg.’
The BMA briefing paper stresses the importance of pay parity between doctors in academia and the NHS, as well as the need to ensure medical academics could access CEAs.
BMA medical academic staff committee co-chair Michael Rees said: ‘We fully support the statements by Lord Turnberg and his colleague in the House of Lords and their continued efforts to highlight the issues of academic medicine. We are very grateful for them pointing out the threats to the successful continuation of academic medicine in the UK.’
Health minister Lord Howe said the government welcomed the report and called it a challenging and insightful contribution to the debate on optimising the research potential of the NHS.