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Transforming the environment for UK health research

by Dan Bridge | Analysis

18 May 2012

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A cancer patient and a nurse

Our new report talks about improving health research

The forecast for health research in the UK is looking brighter.

That was the mood at the meeting of the UK research community– including Cancer Research UK, industry, Government, regulators, patient representatives, academics and NHS organisations.

Today, together with the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) and the Wellcome Trust, we’re releasing a report of the meeting, which talks about how the research community can improve health research in the UK.

Healthy research means healthy people

Health research leads to improved healthcare. It means that UK patients can benefit from new developments to treat and prevent disease so that people live longer and healthier lives

We’ve previously discussed the challenges of setting up health research studies in the NHS, and outlined the potential impact of the current NHS reforms.

And we’ve been a leading voice in calling for a reform to cut the unnecessary red tape hampering research so that studies are set up efficiently – while keeping patient safety as a priority.

Report summary

Today’s report summarises the results of the meeting of health organisations held in February 2012. It assesses the government’s progress since an AMS review published in January 2011 called for the regulation of health research in the UK to be reviewed.

It also looks at promises in the Government’s Plan for Growth. A key feature was to try to improve the UK’s health research regulation by setting up a single Health Research Authority (HRA), to simplify the approval process researchers go though when setting up projects.

The report reveals a need for leadership and collaboration in the research community, so that the new HRA can become an influential body. The HRA must work closely with others to set a national agenda for the regulation and management of research.

There was consensus that there’s been considerable effort from across the research community to work together to improve research. And positive steps are being made.

But there’s a lot more to be done. Four key recommendations emerged:

  • We need to work together to enable high-quality research to happen, while ensuring the safety of participants is protected.
  • Patients and the public must be involved at every stage of health research.
  • It’s everyone’s job to shout about the importance of research. While the NHS is going through a significant period of change, the importance of research in delivering both health and economic benefits should be highlighted by everyone.
  • We need to develop better ways to monitor progress – and feedback developments within the research community.

It was incredibly encouraging to see the range of stakeholders who came together, and the appetite of all present to truly champion research in the NHS.

And we’re keen to continue to work hard with others to transform health research in the UK, so that patients and society reap the health and economic benefits.