Joint Research Office


Report calls for fully integrated research teams across the NHS and academia

9 January 2020

A widening gap between the NHS and academia is preventing research in the NHS from reaching its full potential, a report from The Academy of Medical Sciences has said.

But the report referred to the partnership between UCLH and UCL as an example of what can be achieved by an NHS organisation and university working together.

The report – led by 10 prominent figures in the NHS and higher education including UCLH chief executive Professor Marcel Levi – called for ‘fully integrated’ research teams across the NHS and academia, saying there had been a fall in the number of clinical academics who operate at the interface between universities and the NHS.

Closer working is needed to ensure scientific discoveries continue to boost the NHS and improve patient care, the report said. It pointed to CAR T and Huntington’s research at UCLH and UCL as examples of the UK’s most significant contributions to advances in patient care to date.

To close the gap between the NHS and higher education, the Transforming health through innovation: Integrating the NHS and academia report said healthcare organisations should promote research and encourage staff involved in research to take up honorary academic appointments.

And it called on universities to embrace NHS staff into their research teams by increasing the number of honorary positions they award to NHS staff. Report authors also said all healthcare undergraduate degrees should offer a research component.

The report said research should be streamlined through joint R&D offices – mentioning the UCLH/UCL JRO as an example of where this has already been done.

A key recommendation was for NHS staff to have protected time for research, beginning with an estimated £25m pilot scheme to allow 1 in 5 consultants to have one day a week of their time protected for research at ten hospitals across the UK.

It is expected that the scheme would be cost neutral or even save money in the longer term by improving recruitment and retention of NHS staff, reducing spending on agency staff, and increasing research funding from life sciences companies.

President of the Academy Professor Sir Robert Lechler said: “Protecting and strengthening research is a win-win situation for patients, the NHS, Universities and our economy.”

Read the full report.