Clinical academics lose research funds

December 26, 1997

CLINICAL academics were this week counting the personal cost of a Pounds 10 million cut to NHS research and development funding.

A large number of hospital trusts where research is undertaken lost out as the 3 per cent cut in NHS research money, which pays for staff and other costs needed to support externally funded research and development, was passed on to individual hospitals. The cuts, it is claimed, will affect the amount of applied clinical research university medical academics are able to do.

The biggest losers were expected to be among the former special health authorities hospitals in London, which depend on research and development income and are London University teaching hospitals. Some lost, as did other London teaching hospitals, including St Mary's Hospital Trust and Northwick Park.

This is the first time the money has been distributed through a national bidding exercise. Among the winners were the Oxford and Cambridge consortia. A university medical academic commented that hospitals whose university researchers were top-rated in the clinical research section of the research assessment exercise had mostly lost about 3 per cent of their NHS research budgets, which reflected the Pounds 10 million loss. A 2.8 per cent adjustment for inflation meant they had stayed near level-pegging.

Malcolm Green, vice principal for postgraduate medicine at Imperial College, said the Pounds 10 million cut was very disappointing. "When the government is talking about a new evidence-based NHS, I think it's very bad news to cut the research budget by Pounds 10 million." If there had to be a cut in the budget it would have been preferable for it to be equally taken from what the NHS spends on commissioning its own research, he said. "It will affect Imperial. It means there will be less clinical applied research."

A Department of Health source said some hospital trusts had seen cuts, mostly because of the Pounds 10 million drop in research funding. Other changes came from redistribution based on the quality of submissions for funds and because there had been a modest amount given to primary care research.

The source added that the Pounds 10 million cut from the research and development budget had instead gone into patient care. "Despite the modest cuts the NHS is still committing more than Pounds 1 million a day for the next three years."

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