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NHS research: getting Parliament onside

by Dan Bridge | Analysis

28 January 2013

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A picture of a nurse with a patient
The NHS changes
A picture of a nurse with a patient

Research will be vital in the restructured NHS

As the NHS is going through a period of change that “can be seen from space”  Cancer Research UK and other medical research charities have been calling for research to be ‘hard-wired’ into the new NHS structures.

Last year, our calls were heeded, and – in a world first – the Secretary of State for Health, the NHS Commissioning Board and Clinical Commissioning Groups all now have a legal duty to promote research in the NHS. But what will this look like in practice?

Last week, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research (to whom we provide logistical support) hosted an event in the House of Commons, where parliamentarians came to hear views from a range of organisations about how research should sit in the new NHS, and the ways that they can support this process.

The room was absolutely packed with MPs and Lords from across the three main political parties, as well as Civil Servants wanting to hear more about research in the NHS. It was great to see such enthusiasm for research, and we’re hoping that this will carry over into the day-to-day work of the NHS.

The speakers at the meeting came from a range of backgrounds – including GPs carrying out primary care research, surgeons, and research champions from the Department of Health.

Throughout the discussion it was clear that the medical research community is positive about the opportunities opened by the NHS restructure. And several speakers raised some useful specific practical points, such as making sure research projects are included when contracts for healthcare commissioning are drawn up and giving the commissioners access to tools and statistics to follow up on healthcare providers to make sure that they are promoting research.

Others spoke of the need to inform patients about the value of research, so that they themselves can push for more involvement – whether through more information being made available in hospitals, or through designating ‘research champions’ to push the message about the importance of research.

It’s a time of great change in the NHS, but events such as this are starting to set out clear recommendations for how research should be embedded in the new NHS.

As ever, we’ll be keeping an eye on developments in this area as the changes roll out.