What does Sally Davies – the new CMO – think about regulation?

Posted on March 3, 2011 by

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My friend Emma at Cancer Research UK who is very knowledgeable about all things health policy, has just pinged me a great FT Science podcast with Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, interviewing Sally Davies, who heads up the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and has just been announced as the new Chief Medical Officer. The NIHR co-ordinates health research in the NHS and invests around a billion pounds a year.

The interview with Sally is at the beginning and worth a listen. The whole thing’s about 8 minutes long.

Sally mentions the Academy of Medical Science’s recommendations for how the UK can improve the regulation and governance of medical research (more on that report and what it said here). This report was commissioned by the government. They welcomed it when it reported on 11 January and we’re now waiting for them to respond to it outlining how they plan act on it’s recommendations.

Sally referred to all the changes and improvements that the NIHR has made to health research in the UK over the past few years, building collaboration and co-ordination. But she agrees that bureaucracy isn’t where we want it. Currently high levels of bureaucracy can make it slow to get research projects off the ground and can act as a big disincentive to industry who could simply choose to invest elsewhere. But she suggests that, with all the ongoing improvements, reducing bureaucracy could be the “icing on the cake”.

She also touches on the outcome of the spending review (details of this if your memory’s hazy in my post here). She welcomes the generally good settlement for NIHR and health research and discusses the ongoing focus on developing translational medicine, building collaborations with life sciences industry and outlining her vision for Britain to take the opportunity to play a major role as the biopharma environment across the world develops.

Commenting are Diana Garnham, Chief Executive of the Science Council and Andrew Jack, FT Pharmaceutical Correspondent. They conclude that they like the vision but think it’s going to be tough to achieve.

Andrew Jack picks up on Sally’s “icing on the cake” reference to reducing bureaucracy, extending the cake metaphor to say it’s not just the icing, it’s more integral, it’s more like the “lumps in the mix.” And he says that there are other lumps that need addressing, such as effectively incentivising people to get involved in and support research across the NHS – issues that we pick up in more detail in our AMRC briefing outlining our concerns with the Health Bill.

This report, its recommendations and what the government may do next were also the topic of discussion in parliament on Monday night at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research’s annual dinner – check out Emma’s blog for a summary of the discussion.

Posted in: Policy