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Dame Sally Davies: ‘We can make research a statement, not a question’

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by Cancer Research UK | Analysis

19 May 2015

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NHS hospital bicycle

Professor Dame Sally Davies is England’s Chief Medical Officer. This is her reaction to our new report, published this morning, exploring how the NHS supports health research. You can read our blog post about the report here.

When I was appointed as Chief Medical Officer, I saw it as a tremendous opportunity to put science and research at the heart of the National Health Service – and I still do.  That is why I was delighted to see the independent report commissioned by Cancer Research UK – Every Patient a Research Patient?

Dame Sally Davies

Professor Dame Sally Davies is England’s Chief Medical Officer

I am pleased with some of the findings of the report; and concerned by others.

I am impressed to see how much progress has been made in cancer research over the last decade, and to hear that the National Institute for Health Research is seen as having played a central role in enabling this transformation.

This is a powerful endorsement of the partnership that we have created between research funders (such as NIHR and Cancer Research UK), patients, researchers, and doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the NHS.

By working together, the report shows how we have greatly strengthened many aspects of cancer research for the benefit of patients and the economy.

The report, however, also makes clear that there is considerably more to do to improve the commitment, culture, capacity and capability of the NHS to promote, support and conduct research. I have personally seen how important hospital chief executive leadership can be for this. The report sets out the actions that charities and research organisations believe are necessary if we are to continue to make the progress we all want to see in cancer and other important areas of research.

It is also crucial if I am to deliver my personal goal of putting science and research at the heart of the NHS.

I strongly believe that every patient should have the opportunity to participate in appropriate research which is relevant to her or him.

I also believe that, with appropriate measures to safeguard patient confidentiality and respect patients’ wishes, researchers should be able to make use of appropriate patient data (anonymised where needed) so they can develop new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer.

The title of Cancer Research UK’s report deliberately ends with a question mark, making it a question, not a statement. I believe that, if we all work together to ensure that the NHS plays its full part in promoting and supporting research, every patient can be offered this opportunity.

Then we will be able to replace that question mark with an exclamation mark, so that we can truly state: Every patient a research patient!

Sally Davies is the Chief Medical Officer for England. These are her personal views and this is not a formal Government response to the report.

Image source: NHS bike via Flickr used under CC-BY-SA 2.0