New report finds action is required to protect UK health research

Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, Clinical Senior Lecturer and cardiology consultant
Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, Clinical Senior Lecturer and cardiology consultant

A new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences has outlined that the UK needs to do more to retain its exceptional strengths in health research.

The report titled Future-proofing UK Health Research: a people-centred, coordinated approach was produced by 30 experts from across the UK, including Imperial’s Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London and cardiology consultant Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The report calls for coordinated action to secure a sustainable future for research and deliver maximum health benefits for people everywhere, which involves Governments across the UK, public and charitable funders, higher education institutions, industry, NHS leaders, patients, carers and the public. It concludes that UK health research is in danger of being taken for granted and sets out what needs to be done to improve and future-proof it.

"For me, being a clinical academic is a privilege, with the benefits extending far beyond my own job satisfaction to the patients I treat and work with and the culture of my workplace." Dr Rasha Al-Lamee Clinical Senior Lecturer at National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, and cardiology consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

The importance of clinical academics was highlighted as being crucial to support the over-burdened NHS and calls on regulators, funders, the NHS and universities to improve support for clinical academics and pilot a scheme where healthcare professionals have protected time for research.

Dr Rasha Al-Lamee works jointly between Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute and as a cardiology consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and spends 70% of her work-life running clinical trials on how to relieve the symptoms of heart disease and 30% of her time seeing patients. Dr Al-Lamee noted that "hospitals doing research have better patient outcomes overall. Despite this, there has been a decline of almost a quarter of the number of clinical academics at my career level across the UK over the last decade. To avoid detrimental effects on patients and healthcare workers like me, the sector needs to make it easier to hold these dual careers in a secure and flexible way."

Some of the report’s other key findings include the need to place people at the heart of the UK health research system by improving research culture and career structures, maximise the research potential of the NHS and, crucially, ensure that the true cost of excellent health research is adequately covered by addressing the current model of research funding where universities are required to cross-subsidise research costs from international student fee income.