Health Research Authority makes its pitch to patients and the public

Now, how does the famous saying go? Some are born regulators, some become regulators, and some have regulation thrust upon them.

Yesterday our medical research regulator – the Health Research Authority (HRA) – set out its strategy for public involvement:

Regulators are the modern tool by which Governments operationalise law. Years ago it used to be knights if you were lucky or mercenaries if you were very unlucky. I prefer regulators myself.

When regulators fail the consequences can be disastrous at best and end in human tragedy at worst. If you ever meet someone who argues for an unfettered market point them in the direction of India where clinical trials have been turned into slave labour.

In the UK we now have regulators of markets (such as Ofwat), of people (the General Medical Council), and of systems (the HRA). All purportedly in the public interest. But only recently have regulators actively involved and engaged the public (and even then I am being a little kind to them).

As a document that sets out its core philosophy and future approach to public involvement, HRA’s strategy is excellent. I know from my own involvement with it that it has the political will behind it to make it work. I hope you will read it and respond, perhaps even attend it’s forthcoming workshops.

My own vision is for a system of regulation in which regulators see patients and the public as regulatory partners. Applying proportionality and common sense solutions to regulation that both promotes and protects the public interest.

What roles could patients and the public play? Well, my experience is that they can help identify and eradicate unnecessary rules. They can sniff out the myths about regulation a mile off. They can help counter the assumptions that people have held unchecked – and based regulation on – for too long. For. Instance about how patients and carers view risk. They can improve the way we communicate information. They can bring others on board.

My point is that this is the new way to do regulation and run a regulator – with the public.

And I think the HRA and the people in it are born regulators.

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