Medical Research - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:47 pm on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Willis of Knaresborough Lord Willis of Knaresborough Liberal Democrat 7:47 pm, 28th March 2017

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has already demonstrated just how important it is to continue government investment in UK medical research and in so doing recognise significant contributions from the charity and industrial research sectors.

The £7.2 billion annual investment in UK research has delivered spectacular results: beta blockers, cardiac pacemakers, CAT and MRI scans, DNA sequencing, and monoclonal antibodies, with a few having long-term human and commercial impact.

While the MRC leads much of this work, the increasing importance of NIHR in delivering research near to bedside is also impressive. Thanks to the foresight of Sir David Cooksey in 2006 and the continued support of successive Governments, NIHR is building a research capability within the NHS which is truly impressive. Part of that success is due to the outstanding work of the 13 CLAHRCs, which are responsible for building clinical/academic research capacity across the country and which tackle issues affecting today’s patients. I declare an interest as the chair of the Yorkshire and Humber CLAHRC. We have in two years levered £13 million in matched funding from commercial, charity, NHS and academic organisations, doubling our resource to £26 million. This in turn has helped us to deliver on 164 projects, produce 49 peer-reviewed publications and train 56 PhD students. Crucially, we have been able to effect real improvement in health outcomes.

Our “towards smoke-free mental health services” survey has informed NICE guidance on smoking cessation in secondary care for mental health patients previously denied access to smoking cessation programmes, while an electronic frailty index, using existing electronic record data to enable GPs identify the frailest people in their practice, is now used by 90% of GPs in the country.

As in most parts of the UK, the cost and effectiveness of emergency and urgent care pose real challenges. Here, we have developed the largest regional dataset of emergency and urgent care patient episodes in the country, linking data from the very first call to discharge. With the support of the Health Research Authority, this database provides a unique resource to help deliver more appropriate care and reduce avoidable attendances and admissions to hospital.

CLAHRCs provide an environment for exploring novel technologies where commissioners, providers and local authorities require rapid evaluations to inform decision-making and service planning. They pioneer new models of evidence-based practice for the delivery of health and social care. They work in tandem with the Clinical Research Network, academic health science networks and nationally with the other 12 CLAHRCs. In the new, post-Brexit world, what plans are there to continue CLAHRCs beyond their current period?