Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 39 - 43)

TUESDAY 7 DECEMBER 1999

JOHN DENHAM MP, YVETTE COOPER MP, LORD SAINSBURY OF TURVILLE AND DR PAT TROOP

NHS Research and Development Strategy

Chairman

  39. I am conscious of the pressures on your time. We do have some more questions on NHS R&D. Would you like to answer that or do you feel that the time is too short?
  (Mr Denham) Please go ahead, my Lord Chairman.

Lord Perry of Walton

  40. I was a member of the Committee which reported in 1988[6], and which led to the establishment of the R&D strategy in the NHS. We have heard rumours that this arrangement may be struggling, possibly because of inter-trust competition in some areas. Can you assure us that the original vision is still being realised?
  (Ms Cooper) On the issue of the inter-trust competition, obviously that was a feature of the internal market, which has been abolished by the Health Act of 1999. The internal market has been replaced by integrated care, involving greater collaboration between commissioners and providers of health, as well as social care. Obviously, R&D strategy in future needs to be seen in that context, which is a changed context. The R&D is an important part of the modernisation programme in that respect. What we need to do is to make sure that all of the clinical and managerial and policy decisions made in this field are evidence based. The Central Research and Development Committee of the NHS has just completed a review of its priorities for the NHS R&D investment, and the operation of its funding system in the future, the outcome of which will be announced. That will be in the new year. This is in the context of a situation where we expect to see far more collaboration and far more partnership working between sections of the NHS right across the country, as one way of getting round the problem that you have raised.

  Lord Perry of Walton: You can, in fact, reassure us that it is going to go ahead?

Lord Walton of Detchant

  41. And have you reached the 1.5 per cent target of NHS expenditure to be spent on R&D, which was the original proposal?
  (Ms Cooper) Not being responsible for the R&D area I cannot answer that but I am sure we can write to the Committee on that point.[7]

Chairman

  42. One of the issues—I declare an interest in being a R&D director—I notice that there are some parts of London where you have one medical school but several trusts, and there are problems very often because of the commonalities in research but different health care issues. Do you think there are ways round this in the management of the NHS?
  (Mr Denham) Picking up what Yvette Cooper has already said, the Strategic Review of the way the research and development levy operates will help to address these issues. The first has been considering a number of research priority areas and investments needed in them. What follows from that is that they have been looking at how we might improve the funding systems, so that we do target funding more effectively and get better value for money from our research effort. That obviously has to include the institutional arrangements through which that is actually delivered on the ground. We have been doing this work and the Ministers hope to report on the conclusions they have reached, having looked at that report, in the new year.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

  43. May I ask if Yvette Cooper has recognised, what she was describing as the collaboration between trusts and authorities and between trusts and trusts, that this was already happening effectively in some areas well before the change in the new Bill? I particularly should declare an interest as a former Chairman of the Forest Health Care Trust where we were doing just that.
  (Ms Cooper) I am extremely glad to hear that this kind of collaboration is going on. Certainly, I know there are other parts of the country where effective collaboration is not happening in the way it should be, but it is reassuring to know that it has been going on in some areas.

  Chairman: I think there is a widespread feeling that it has not been a universal phenomenon, unfortunately. Ministers and Dr Troop, you have been colossally generous with your time. We are very grateful to you for coming. Thank you very much indeed.


6   Priorities in Medical Research, 3rd Report 1987-88, HL Paper 54. Back

7   See supplementary memorandum on page 28. Back

 
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