New Plans for Health Research

The MRC has welcomed Sir David Cooksey’s review of the design and arrangements of the public funding of health research in the UK. The report was announced in the Chancellor’s pre-budget speech.

Professor Colin Blakemore said:

The Cooksey Report provides a perceptive analysis of the ‘gaps’ in the translational pathway between basic research and treatment development and in introducing new treatments into clinical practice.

We welcome the Report’s recognition of the strength of the UK health research base and share the review team’s belief that current funding levels for basic science should be sustained. MRC has been in the forefront of efforts to build up translational and clinical research and to embed the culture of translation in our scientific community.

Supporting research with the aim of improving human health is at the heart of our mission. As we said in our submission to the Cooksey Review, we fully embrace the Government’s vision of a more integrated health R&D system across the entire UK. We welcome the opportunities set out in the Cooksey Report and look forward to working with Professor John Bell, with NIHR and all the other partners in the new organisational structures announced today.

The detailed analysis of the case for reform of UK health research, the need for new institutional structures, and observations on the perceived lack of incentives for applied and translational research in MRC can be read in the full report on the Treasury website.

In structural terms MRC’s status remains unchanged as a non-departmental body accountable to the OSI in the DTI. Co-ordination of our strategy – with that of the new National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) – is to be overseen by a new Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research (OSCHR) with Professor John Bell as interim chair. Government has also announced that OSCHR will establish a new joint MRC/NIHR Translational Medicine Funding Board.

The option for a full merger of the MRC and NIHR was carefully considered in the Review. While a fully-merged organisation was thought to have significant benefits including efficiency savings, and the freeing up of resources to fill gaps, the report said a merger could be disruptive and with the initial focus likely to be on internal organisational changes rather than on the major challenges facing UK health research. Therefore the report did not recommend a fully merged organisation at this time, but recommended a review of the joint reporting arrangement in 2011.

More information will be made available as implementation of the recommendations gets underway.