Home » Lord Turnberg
Category Archives: Lord Turnberg
I begin with a public information announcement….If you are following the debate about the Health and Social Care Bill then you really must come to AMRC’s workshop on 29th March to discuss its impact on research and what’s to be done about it.
If it is anything like the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research dinner on 29th March then it will be well worth your while attending. Emma Greenwood from Cancer Research UK has done a quick write-up on the dinner and the ‘official’ record will follow in due course.
Yesterday I wrote about the HEFCE announcement on the weighting for ‘impact’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). I was pleased today when one of my sharp-eyed team (of which I have several hundred here as you know) noticed this workshop being run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement at the invitation of HEFCE.
It’s aim is to inform the the eventual guidance to universities on this part of the REF. If a side-product of REF is the development of public engagement into a more robust discipline it will be a good thing.
I see the Russell Group put out a statement yesterday saying 20% was still too much but The Guardian’s article probably gives the best overview of where the sentiments are across the research sector. As I say, personally, I think HEFCE has fallen in about the right place for this first go and I am sure we will learn a considerable amount from it.
And lastly, since I am still loosely on the subject of public engagement I wanted to highly commend an excellent report by NCVO which is out today. Entitled Participation: trends, facts and figures it gives an absorbing and detailed insight into public participation in civic society in the UK. Science is not mentioned but it will give those that believe the British have ‘switched-off’ something to think about.
After days of incessant pounding by critics and opponents the Government brushed itself down today and published its Health and Social Care Bill. The text of the legislation can be found on the parliament website.
It is a titanic Bill – 353 pages, 137 clauses, 22 schedules long – and the vagaries of our parliamentary system will likely mean that some parts will not get so much as a nod and a wink. Indeed, so vast are the changes afoot that the Department of Health has set up a new channel to help us all find our way around the reforms (not sure if it’s on Virgin Media yet).
However, a visit to the House of Lords today, understandably flush after their all-nighter this week, suggested that they are in no mood to let anything go through without significant challenge and a good deal of probing. But they will need some help for sure, legislation is often more like a surrealist painting than cutaway drawing – the closer you get, the less you see.
A quick flick through from a medical research standpoint suggests people might want to look at Clauses 13H and 13I and associated schedules which place a duty on the NHS Commissioning Board to promote innovation and research.
Good luck with it! More later.
Over the holidays I caught a BBC Radio 4 item about the days of the touch typist. It was one of those gems of broadcasting which looked through a narrow lens to tell the listener much about how the world has changed. It also brought back many memories of my time as a messenger at the old Department of Education delivering brown envelopes – many of them with a red flag meaning it was from the Minister’s office – to the typing pool. About the same time my Dad (who was a schools inspector) got one of the first computers which sat in the corner of his office at the DofE in Arthur C Clarke fashion. Indeed, I am not too sure who was more afraid of it – him or me.
Since then there has been an ‘information revolution’ of course, And it just so happens that this is the title of the Department of Health consultation about information use and access in the health service to which AMRC has responded today . We have made the following key points:
- Research is central to the information revolution’s aspiration of delivering broad benefits to patients and society through improving access to information.
- We welcome the government’s ambition that by 2015 “The quality and scope of information available for analysis and research will be considerably higher, more comprehensive and based on accurate recording.” and urge the government to work with us to ensure the information revolution can deliver this
- Confidentiality and security must be central to the revolution to underpin patient support for the use of their data
- Issues around the use of identifiable patient information in research must be addressed.
- We urge that the recommendations of the Data Sharing Review and the ongoing work of the Research Capability Programme and Health Research Support Service be included in this strategy.
- More focus is needed on informing patients to understand how their data will be used and supporting them to find out about research opportunities open to them.
The truth of the matteris that good information useage and good communication rely on sound leadership from the top – in this case Ministers.
As we finalised our response this week, the irony was not lost on me that the Department should be seeking views on this issue shortly after a Christmas period in which it was roundly criticised for not pursuing a public information campaign on flu vaccination. Why is it that, in this information age, all Governments wantonly cut back on communications, marketing and information activities? Ultimatelyit can only short-change patients.
I sometimes think that when politicians become Ministers they forget that they have become heads of ‘corporate’ beings. Good communications is vital to whatever service their Department is delivering. They neglect it at their peril – a lesson learnt by most businesses long ago.
For those wanting to get a grasp of some of the issues around the NHS White Paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’ of which the ‘Information Revolution’ is just one aspect, I encourage you to read yesterday’s House of Lords debate. What would we do without the Upper House I ask myself?
It being the end of the week I should perhaps mention several other interesting bits of news from the last five days…
First, the data sharing agreement announced by the Wellcome Trust and other research funders.
Second, a union of national importance on the scale of William and Kate it may not be, but this week the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI), BioIndustry Association and British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) announced the formation of LifeSciences UK to facilitate joint-working between different parts of the healthcare industry and strengthen their voice with Government.
And, third, this item about Cancer Research UK setting up a c-team of experts composed of four world-class research groups to launch a new blitz on cancer by targeting rogue stem cells that cause tumours to spread and become untreatable.
That’s it this week from the A-team.
The news earlier this week that the National Institute of Clinicial and Health Excellence (NICE) is to lose its powers for deciding which drugs should be made available on the NHS (to be replaced by a new system based around GP commissioning) brought an alternative version of Adam Smith’s remarks about shopkeepers to mind:
- NICE is a much maligned organisation, but surely we are not intending to lose the skills and expertise that NICE has built up in terms of drug appraisal (plus an international reputation for excellence to boot) for nothing are we?
- If we really are to move to some form of local prescribing then what safeguards will we see in place to stop the same shadow of inequity moving acorss the country much like the Ice Queen managed in Narnia.
- Many of our members seemed to adopt the only sensible response which was one of cautious scepticism but with overriding concern for what it would mean for patients.