New report reveals long standing problems in NHS research strategy

December 04, 2003

Health services research is still not making its full contribution to improvements in patient care, according to a new report from The Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust, summarised in this week's BMJ.

Health services research accounts for 2-3% of the £4530m spent on health research in the UK each year, but it is unclear how much of the information generated is translated and used to inform practical decisions.

Research for the report involved interviews with 35 senior health service researchers, NHS managers, policy makers, and research commissioners in the UK.

It shows that, despite many attempts to streamline NHS research funding, funders, researchers, and the users of research are uncertain about how best to work together.

It reveals that both managers and researchers are frustrated about the applicability of some health services research, while responsibility for communicating the results of research to the people who need it is also unclear.

The report proposes several ways that research could be strengthened, including a UK Academy for Health Services Research, the development of "knowledge translators", and fellowships that build strategic alliances between the NHS, academics, and policy makers.

Everyone involved in health services research recognises the existence of long-standing problems, say the authors. The best chance of progress lies in bringing together funders, users, and researchers to develop solutions, as has been achieved in the United States and Canada.

The Health Foundation is calling for comments on a range of proposals for action to support a new programme of activity to help develop health services research. The Nuffield Trust will also be taking forward a number of initiatives in this area.


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