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Protect and enhance research in the NHS, suggests new report

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Urgent action is required to protect researchers working within the NHS, a new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences has suggested.

The report, Transforming health through innovation: Integrating the NHS and academia, which was based in-part on work from Brunel’s Health Economics Research Group (HERG), identifies six essential actions to enhance the NHS-academia relations to better harness the research expertise of the NHS for the health and wealth of the nation.

One of the report’s most eye-catching proposals is a scheme which would give one in five consultants contracts that includes dedicated time for research.

In setting out the benefits of both publicly-funded health research and research-active NHS organisations, the Academy drew on two streams of research in which HERG played a major role. The first stream is the series of studies estimating that every £1 invested in medical research delivered a return equivalent to around 25p every year, in perpetuity, whilst the second stream of work included evidence, compliled originally from HERG, that found positive evidence that engaging clinicians and healthcare organisations in research is linked to improvements in the delivery of healthcare.

Prof Subhash Pokhrel, Head of the Brunel’s Dept of Clinical Sciences and Health Economics Theme, said: “It is very pleasing to see that long-standing streams of HERG’s research are informing the important debate about boosting health research in the NHS.

“Locally, Brunel University London is developing increasingly strong links with The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

“HERG is also continuing to work with the World Health Organisation to synthesise the evidence about how best to organise national health research systems.”

The six recommendations:

-Create a healthcare system that truly values research
-Fully integrate research teams across academia and the NHS
-Provide dedicated research time of research-active NHS staff
-Ensure undergraduate curricula equips healthcare staff with the skills to engage in research
-Incorporate flexibility into postgraduate training
-Streamline research through joint R&D offices.

Prof Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said: “Universities UK fully supports the recommendations from this report which will help improve collaboration between universities and the NHS.

“Universities have an important role to play in protecting and enhancing NHS research. Increasing the opportunities for clinicians to undertake research with university teams is essential, as is nurturing students’ interests in health research from the beginning of their studies.

“We look forward to working with the NHS and government to further support health research, supporting the life and sciences industrial strategy and increasing productivity for the benefit of patient care.”

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