Research for all – a reflection

RCP academic vice president Professor Margaret Johnson provides her reflection on the last year since the launch of Research for all.

It has been a busy year since the launch of Research for all but as 2016 comes to a close I wanted to share some of the highlights. The main barriers highlighted by the report were funding, time and the complexity of ethics approvals; as academic vice president at RCP I am therefore pleased to see that there have been many positive changes since the report launched its findings at Medicine 2016.

The RCP has been tirelessly raising awareness of the barriers and opportunities for change with ministers, funders and within the NHS. A particularly positive step was the president’s meeting with the chair of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, Nicola Blackwood MP, who was very open to listening to our position and recommendations.

I am personally thrilled to have increased the RCP and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network awards, recognising outstanding contributions by both consultants and trainees to clinical research. The NIHR league table for 2015–16 found that all trusts are now research active, with 60% of trusts increasing their research activity. This is great news for patients, doctors and trusts, ensuring that more people can get involved in research and the wide range of opportunities available. Of course, support is needed to do this and the Health of the public report, launched by the Academy of Medical Sciences, has highlighted the recommendations in Research for all to support professional development in research activity, no matter what stage of a doctor's career.

The NIHR league table for 2015–16 found that all trusts are now research active, with 60% of trusts increasing their research activity.

Professor Margaret Johnson, RCP academic vice president

In other news…

It would be impossible to reflect on 2016 without mentioning Brexit: following the result of the referendum, the RCP has been diligently advising on opportunities and challenges around research. You can find out more about this in the RCP response to the Science and Technology committee’s call for evidence. Some of the issues for research were also highlighted in the October issue of Commentary with the article ‘Brexit: into the woods?’.

Funding

2016 has seen the launch of the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical discovery aiming to bring together researchers to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases, investing £650 million to set it up. Combined with announcements of £816 million for health research from the Department of Health, £112million for NIHR clinical research and further support through the industrial strategy, it provides a positive message of commitment to research.

It would be impossible to reflect on 2016 without mentioning Brexit.

Professor Margaret Johnson, RCP academic vice president

Ethics

The Health Research Authority is now up and running with the new ethics approval system, aiming to streamline the process and reduce complexity, with support available to researchers on how it works. NIHR has also announced start-up funding can be awarded in advance of ethics approval to minimise delay when recruiting or setting up clinical trials.

Looking forward to 2017

Work has already begun on the relaunch of the Research engagement toolkit, now in its second edition. The toolkit provides guidance on how to get into research for the first time, or to come back to research after a break. Providing advice on where to find funding, collaboration opportunities and how to involve patients in your work, it can provide support for a range of research activity.

I hope we can build on the successes of 2016 and take forward the recommendations in Research for all. We need to support opportunities for research through working as one team, collaboratively with nurses, patients, research and development departments and doctors within every hospital.

Notes to editors

Research for all was launched by the Royal College of Physicians in 2016, based on a survey of almost 2,000 doctors across a range of specialties. It outlines the major barriers faced to becoming more involved in research.

 The Research engagement toolkit provides practical guidance for doctors who wish to be more involved in research or return to research after a break. The updated toolkit will be released in early 2017.