Interagency relations key to improving outcomes from UK health research

Good relations between the UK's two main health research bodies---the NHS Research and Development programme and the Medical Research Council---are essential if the new single fund for health research in the UK is to reap expected results, says this week’s lead Editorial.

The single fund will be called the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research (OSCHR) and its interim chair will be John Bell, currently Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford.

An independent report on how the single fund could work in practice was delivered by its main author, Sir David Cooksey, last week to Chancellor Gordon Brown, who endorsed all of the report’s recommendations—which include criticisms of the way the MRC and NHS Research and Development programme interact.

The report’s main suggestion is that an overarching health strategy is necessary to ensure that basic science successes are translated into health gains. However, the Editorial points out that Cooksey’s suggestion that funding for basic science should be capped at current levels, while that for applied research is boosted, shows a lack of recognition of the UK’s superb reputation for laboratory science and the part this plays in attracting industry investment.

The Editorial concludes: “Key to the success of any large-scale health research plan is good cooperation between the institutions and, crucially, the individuals that run them. OSCHR’s difficult position reporting into both the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry means its success largely depends on how well these two government bureaucracies can interact…However, perhaps more important will be the working relationship between the MRC and the Department of Health. Here, everyone close to both institutions knows that some heads need knocking together. This will be Bell’s first and perhaps most difficult task.”


EMBARGO: 00:01H (UK time) Friday December 15, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H EST Thursday December 14, 2006.

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