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Medical academics call for clarity on research

Medical academics support NHS England’s vision for research and development, but want to know how doctors’ research time will be protected and given sufficient priority.

researchThe NHS England research and development plan shows how it intends to fulfil its duty to promote research, but the BMA medical academic staff committee says there needs to be ‘more clarity’ on how the organisation would achieve its ‘laudable’ aims.

Research is Everybody’s Business details six objectives for NHS England, including identifying health research topics, developing the organisation’s evidence base, and increasing its capacity to undertake research.

It suggests including patients in setting priorities for research and its design and delivery, as well as reiterating the ideal that every NHS patient should be offered the opportunity to take part in research.

It also proposes increasing the availability of information on current and completed research to maximise the benefits ‘through innovation, income, knowledge improvement and impact’.

The MASC coordinated the BMA’s response to the consultation on the strategy.

Primary care is key

MASC executive member Mark Gabbay said primary care was particularly key for NHS research.

He said: ‘Clinical commissioning groups and NHS England need to ensure they facilitate and encourage practices and other primary care sites, and providers, to support research.

‘Governance and, importantly, additional treatment costs, must not be barriers to delivering studies.

‘Staff also need to use research effectively to inform their decision making and commissioning.’

The MASC also wants more clarity on the remit of NHS England around research and its overall role within the NHS, a sentiment echoed by other organisations.

Medical academics have welcomed the government’s latest financial allocations for science and research, which maintain current levels of investment.

Questions over role

The Health Research Authority said: ‘Overall the document needs to make more explicit reference to the remit of NHS England for its interest in research so that is not lost within the greater ambition for the NHS.’

The AMRC (Association of Medical Research Charities) also welcomes the initiative, but asks for more information about NHS England’s role within the NHS.

It says ‘insufficient weight’ is given to the role of NHS England in supporting clinical research to trial new treatments and asks for clarity on where the organisation envisions its overall role in the NHS.

The AMRC response says: ‘Much of the strategy appears focused on NHS England’s internal research capacity, while little information is provided over [its] national role and the levers at its disposal to drive change.

‘We are concerned that the vision as currently worded does not mention improving healthcare of patients, which surely must be the central driver at the heart of “making research everybody’s business”.’

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