Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Elizabeth Hirst


  Concerns over MRC proposals to move NIMR into the centre of London in association with a single hospital in order to apply the progress made in basic science to the prevention and treatment of human diseases

  1.  Mill Hill has enormous potential for greatly increased clinical collaborations with the very best, most appropriate speciality hospitals and academic centres wherever they may be in London or worldwide. It is highly unlikely that any one general hospital would provide the very best in so many clinical specialisations. MRC have identified areas of human health requiring future attention (respiratory, cardiac and infectious diseases, cancer, aging, obesity, mental health and health inequalities). Clinical priorities will change rapidly and the renewed Institute will need to respond swiftly to form necessary collaborations There will be constraints to this if associated with a single hospital site. As an independent Institute Mill Hill is also more recognisable as a "National" asset

  2.  Clinical scientists already working at Mill Hill expressed the collective opinion to the CEO that on there are too many clinical distractions on a hospital site and it was preferable to concentrate on research away from patients.

  3.  Mill Hill as it is at present has been compared to theoretical future visions at KCL and UCL. MRC has expressed an unexplained resistance to considering the future theoretical potential of the Mill Hill site to achieve the Task Force's vision for the renewed Institute. This resistance was reflected in the electronic Consultation exercise which forced the person answering to order options which were unacceptable to them otherwise it would not "send" and the very short times given for NIMR to respond to critical decisions regarding it's future (eg six weeks for the original FIS document). Staff at Mill Hill were also informed by the CEO that the Mill Hill "option" was not being put forward to the relevant Council meeting because they were "so excited" about the KCL and UCL options.

  4.  It is also of great concern that previous attempts to move functional groups or to create a National centre of clinical excellence in association with a hospital (eg CRC at Northwick Park hospital) met with failure for a variety of extremely complex reasons most of which were not anticipated. The proposed move assumes that the reasons (eg why medical and scientific staff remained as "two separate communities" and why an "appropriate form of governance was lacking" etc) are fully understood and will not be repeated. The proposed move runs a serious risk of losing the excellence in basic research that NIMR currently enjoys and losing essential research support staff.

  5.  It is also by no means guaranteed that the additional funding and facilities necessary for any move will be available, nor is it possible to know what the cost of any move will finally turn out to be.

23 November 2004

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