I really would encourage you to read this morning’s article in The Guardian about the impact of the NHS reforms on doctor expertise and research. Its the first article that I’ve seen thus far which really conveys the message about health research that AMRC has been trying to put across and on which we anticipate stepping up our activity as the Health and Social Care Bill heads into the Lords.
It also feels like a significant piece because of the intervention of the President of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson. This is the profession’s voice as opposed to the ‘union’ voice as articulated by the British Medical Association (BMA).
At our Science Communication Awards on Tuesday night I got into quite an interesting conversation with some of our guests about the possible implications for research of an NHS reform package which is essentially as much about greater ‘localism’ as it is about establishing a regulated market.
One of the perennial concerns that AMRC often has to deal with is that of small local charities raising money for research taking place at their local hospital or by a doctor who perhaps cared for a loved-one. It is not the raising of funds that is necessarily the problem. Indeed, it is important that we do not deter such local passion and conviction. No, it is the fact that such money is being raised and then distributed in a parochial way; that such local charities very rarely use independent external review (peer review) to ensure they are funding the best science.
That is why – knowing also that administering peer review is not easy or without associated costs – we try our hardest to encourage such organisations to buddy-up with other charities that do have such systems in place or find some way of routing funds to research charities while retaining some sort of footprint on it.
Who is to say that in the new NHS, we might not see GP consortia actively encouraging such local charity connections in the name of ‘so-called research’ – superficially beneficial but in the long-term pretty disastrous.