NHS needs more focus on research

Medical colleges say greater emphasis on clinical research in Scotland could help improve patients’ lives and future health services

Friday 6th September 2019

Scottish doctors are not being given enough time for clinical research which could help improve patients’ lives in the future, medical colleges have warned.

A joint statement by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland has called for a greater emphasis on research across the NHS.

Everyone working for the health service should be aware of the importance of clinical research – which can assess new treatments and methods of care – and work to support it, the colleges say.

This could be done by identifying opportunities for new studies and recruiting patients for trials, for example.

The organisations say a research focus on improving outcomes for patients and helping people to live longer, healthier lives at home could also help deliver the Scottish Government’s plans for integration of health and social care.

However, they also warn that healthcare professionals currently lack protected time to undertake patient-facing clinical research – and that this must be addressed urgently. 

Professor Derek Bell, president of the RCPE and chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, said clinical research is essential to innovation in patient care and maintaining Scotland’s status as a “globally-recognised centre” for health science.

He said: “Many doctors, and other healthcare professionals, regard research as a very important part of their job and a vital part of clinical care.

“Contracts which limit clinicians’ time do not promote innovation and research.

“Currently, there is a lack of protected time for research, and this must be urgently addressed.

“This will be vital if the Scottish Government’s 2020 vision for health and social care is to be realised.”

Professor Bell said health professionals should be proactive where possible in seeking opportunities for their patients to be involved in research and support colleagues to be “research active”.

He added: “In doing so, outcomes for patients could be improved and Scotland’s research-base can continue to grow.”