Earl Howe's Introduction to the Clinical Discovery Conference 2011In the run up to the Clinical Discovery Conference on the 4th October 2011 Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality, discusses the Government's vision of an NHS with research embedded at it's heart.
"The Government’s vision is of a National Health Service with research embedded at its heart. The NHS has a worldwide reputation for research excellence and by creating the best possible research environment, through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), we expect to see this develop and flourish into the future.
Excellence in health research is vital to the UK for better prevention of disease and promotion of healthy ageing, for effective screening, more rapid and accurate diagnosis, new cost-effective treatments, and evidence to support efficient service delivery and organisation.
We want research leading to tangible improvements in the lives of patients, their families and carers. We want research supporting long-term affordability and sustainability in the NHS. We want a research environment that encourages economic growth through attracting investment in the UK by the life science industries.
So what is the Government doing to achieve this? We have demonstrated our commitment to health research by increasing the level of spend in real terms in the period to 2015. In August we announced a record £800 million to be invested over five years in a series of NIHR biomedical research centres and units.
The engagement of NHS providers in research is already impressive. In the last financial year, 97 per cent of Trusts contributed patients to clinical studies run via the NIHR Clinical Research Network. The provisions in the draft Health and Social Care Bill will strengthen this further by placing appropriate powers and duties on the Secretary of State, NHS organisations, Monitor and local authorities.
The Government is also committed to cutting the bureaucracy involved in medical research. We will set up a new Health Research Authority to streamline regulation and improve the cost effectiveness of clinical trials. As a first step, we will establish a Special Health Authority with the National Research Ethics Service as its core later in 2011. It will be responsible for appointing, supporting and managing research ethics committees. It will also work closely with other bodies, such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, to create a unified approval process and promote proportionate standards for compliance and inspection within a consistent national system of research governance.
Rationalising the regulators will take time. However, on the provider side we have already made a significant step forward by adopting standard operating procedures for local research management in the NHS. Transparent and accountable performance are key, and recipients of NIHR funding will regularly publish metrics on their performance when initiating and delivering health research. There will be an initial benchmark of 70 days from receipt of a valid research protocol to the recruitment of the first participant in a study.
Through the unique position of the NHS, there is potential to draw on linked sets of data from electronic health records on a scale unprecedented elsewhere in the world. Provided we have protection for individual patients’ confidentiality and privacy, the opportunities for research and innovation are vast. Later this year, the Government will publish plans for a health research data service that is both viable and affordable, and focussed on linking the data sets that do most to strengthen the international competitiveness of our life sciences research.
I am delighted that delegates from industry, the NHS and academia are taking time to come together to share views and ideas on how the UK can be an effective competitor for clinical research in a global marketplace. I hope and believe the conference will be both stimulating and productive."
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality