Medical review about posts not individuals

July 12, 1996

Your leader and article on the senior management review at the Medical Research Council (THES, June 14) contained inaccuracies and misconceptions.

The reviews of all seven research councils were not conducted by the Treasury but by small teams of officials from the council under review and from the Office of Science and Technology. The recommendations were approved by the chief executive and the chairman. The aim of the reviews is to ensure that all councils have in place an optimum senior structure for delivery of their missions. There were no targets for reduction.

I am informed that, in the event, the councils decided to reduce the number of the senior staff posts from 151 to 115. In executing the reviews the chief executives were satisfied that the benefits were significant and they are to be commended for improving efficiency while putting as much money into the hands of researchers as possible.

The MRC had available, following the review, a senior post equivalent in grade to that hitherto occupied by the second secretary. Thus, contrary to your assertion, the chief executive of MRC still does have a senior appointee, "close to the chief executive to provide alternative thinking, back up and experienced judgement". If the chief executive had felt it appropriate to appoint a clinician to a senior post, he would have been able to to so, making use of either this continuing post, or one of the several other director-level posts within the new HQ structure. He has chosen not to do so, and the chief executive designate agrees with this decision. It is important to realise that the SMR is about posts, not individuals.

Finally, you have been unfair to both Sir Dai Rees and George Radda. They both have very strong connections with medical research. Sir Dai, through his eight years as a distinguished leader of MRC and before that as director of the National Institute of Medical Research at Mill Hill for five years, has an enormous knowledge of the issues, as well as the science, of medical research. Professor Radda has been for 12 years the British Heart Foundation professor of molecular cardiology and has been a pioneer in the application of magnetic resonance imaging to cardiology. He is a recipient of the British Heart Foundation Prize and Gold Medal for Cardiovascular Research. He does not just deal with "test tubes" but with patients as well. Your asides about him and Sir Dai are unjustified.

JOHN CADOGAN Office for Science and Technology

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