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Getting medical research up the Parliamentary agenda

by Emma Greenwood | Analysis

2 March 2011

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The Hpuse of Commons

We want medical research kept high on the agenda

The great and the good of the medical research community descended on Parliament on Monday night, to discuss the importance of clinical research in the NHS.

Our Executive Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Aisling Burnand, presented our take on things, and the Health Minister Earl Howe was on hand to outline the Governments vision.

The event was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on medical research, so representatives from all political parties were present.

So what were the issues that kept MPs and Lords talking late into the night?

Regulation and governance of health research

At the top of the agenda, and enthusiastically introduced by Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, was the recently published Academy of Medical Sciences review of regulation and governance of health research. We blogged about the review when it was launched back in January, and the comments it received, including from the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley.

Monday’s event was the first opportunity to bring parliamentarians together to talk about the review and its recommendations, and there was much support from those present. Aisling highlighted just how important clinical research studies in the NHS are for cancer research, as they lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment and service design.

Just one example from last year was the completion of a 16-year bowel cancer screening study which demonstrated how 3,000 lives a year could be saved.

Attendees reiterated the importance of having a regulatory and governance framework in the UK that doesn’t act as a barrier to setting up studies.

Health and Social Care Bill

There was also discussion about the proposals for NHS reform, as outlined in the Health and Social Care Bill, and what their impact on research may be.

As we’ve said before, we want the UK to have cancer outcomes that match the best in the world, and in order for this to happen the health service must encourage and support cancer research. The discussion last night focused on how research could become truly embedded as part of the NHS under the reforms. Happily, attendees went away with a sense of purpose to ensure that, as the Bill moves through Parliament, research is high on the agenda for discussion.

We also want as many patients as possible benefitting from clinical research in the NHS – giving them access to the latest experimental drug, surgical and radiotherapy treatments.  And it’s essential that these results feed into clinical practice where appropriate.

Monday night’s event was testament to the passion for clinical research in the UK, and we’ll continue to work with politicians and other research organisations to take these issues forward.


Emma Greenwood is a policy researcher at Cancer Research UK