Prioritise medical science: new report challenges UK Government

22 January 2010

The Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) has published a new report challenging the next government of the UK to make medical science a central tenet and make the most of the opportunities for health offered by advances in the field (see press release).

Reaping the rewards: a vision for UK medical science, which notes the abundance and world-leading excellence of biomedical research in the UK and the unique opportunities for medical research via the National Health Service (NHS), says that the UK has an ‘unparalleled competitive advantage’ for commercial medical research that could ‘improve the health of the population both here and abroad’.

However, it warns competitors such as the US, China, Singapore and Canada are actively growing their own medical research sectors and that the UK is losing out as clinical trials and research move to other countries. The report sets out seven key challenges that the AMS says must be addressed over the next five years to reverse this trend and capitalise on public sector investment in medical research:

  1. To benefit patients the NHS must become a willing participant in health research
  2. The regulatory environment is driving medical science abroad
  3. Innovative incentives must firmly root the medical science industries in the UK
  4. Publicly funded health research needs further coordination
  5. Public health challenges must become cross-Departmental priorities
  6. Health research should be used as a driver of foreign policy and international development
  7. The UK must grow and sustain its world-class biomedical workforce for our knowledge economy

Broadly, the report calls for a more coordinated approach to research across the public, private and third sectors; a ‘proportionate, risk-based regulatory framework’, incentives for excellence and innovation, and the need for medical science to ‘underpin cost-effective international development measures that enable poorer countries to address their health needs’. As such it notes that health research should be central to UK foreign policy.

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