A step towards the National Health and Research Service

Posted on February 15, 2012 by

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We have a letter in the Times today (£). It emphasises how important the government’s move to put a strong duty to promote research across the health secretary, the NHS Commissioning Board and all clinical commissioning groups, is for medical research. As debate continues over the bill, this is a really important step towards a truly research-friendly NHS providing the perfect environment to develop new and better treatments for patients. Now we are getting our heads together to support the NHS to deliver this research duty in practice, so that involvement in research becomes the norm.

Research is not just about laying down scientific foundations for the future. It is central to improving quality of service

Sir, In the debate about reforming the health service (letters, Feb 14), it is easy to overlook an important advance that puts research at the heart of the NHS, from the Health Secretary downward. A substantial government amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill will make promoting research a statutory duty in the NHS. It should make the NHS the National Health and Research Service, the only one of its kind in the world.

Research is not just about laying down scientific foundations for the future. It is central to improving the quality of the health service for patients. If the NHS is serious about quality, it has to be serious about research. Our mission now is to ensure that these changes are put into practice. Charities tell us that they receive a growing number of requests from patients who want to take part in clinical trials but don’t know how to go about it; and in a poll of nearly 1,000 adults which we conducted last year 72 per cent told us they would like to be offered chances to take part in research trials. We want to see an NHS in which the information and opportunities are there for patients to participate in research. It still takes too long to recruit patients — the UK has among the longest approval times in Europe.

The NHS must work hand in hand with researchers as they build the new system, so that supporting good research is intrinsic to our health service.

Sharmila Nebhrajani
Chief executive, Association of Medical Research Charities

Posted in: Policy