Research is crucial to excellent patient care. Research-active hospitals have improved outcomes for patients and many doctors regard research as an important part of their job and a very positive experience.
As the Senedd cross party group on medical research meets for the final time today (Wednesday 10 July) before parliamentary summer recess, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Cymru Wales has published a variety of recommendations aimed at the Welsh Government, NHS Wales, doctors, patients and research bodies.
The Welsh NHS faces many challenges. Staffing shortages and financial pressures clearly cannot be ignored, nor can the need to deliver more integrated care to support patients, but we cannot afford to store up problems for the future by letting research fall by the wayside. Investing in research will deliver long-term gains for patients and public health – which is after all what the NHS is there to do.
Yet we know that clinicians often struggle to secure protected time for patient-facing research.
Too many clinicians fit in their research commitments around the rest of their job. With an increasing number of rota gaps in many hospitals, 43% of consultant physicians in Wales tell us that their research is one of the first things to be dropped when the NHS is under pressure.
Among other recommendations, the RCP is calling on the Welsh Government and NHS Wales to:
- implement the recommendations of the Reid and Diamond Reviews
- provide clear national leadership on the importance of medical research
- review clinical research funding streams in Wales, especially if the UK leaves the EU
- work with the medical community to ensure NHS staff have protected research time.
Close to half of consultant physicians in Wales tell us that their research is the first thing to go when the workload gets too much. Yet clinical research is an important part of what health professionals do and should be open to all.
Dr Gareth Llewelyn, RCP vice president for Wales said:
‘Close to half of consultant physicians in Wales tell us that their research is the first thing to go when the workload gets too much. Yet clinical research is an important part of what health professionals do and should be open to all. It’s not just about wearing a white coat in a lab – for many doctors, research may involve enrolling people into clinical trials and collecting data about the patient experience and the healthcare we provide. This all helps to ensure we can achieve the highest standards of medical care. After all, investing in research now will provide new opportunities to save lives in the future.
‘But to do this effectively, we need to make sure that doctors and other health professionals have the time, space and freedom to innovate. In writing this report, we’ve talked to a variety of clinicians, all of whom are passionate about their work and the difference it makes to people’s lives. Now we need to work together to encourage others to reach their full potential.’