3 Proposed institutional and funding
10. The current combined budget of the MRC and the
NHS Research and Development is £1.3 billion. The final budget
for the new Single Fund will not be confirmed until the next Comprehensive
Spending Review but will be at least £1 billion. Evidence
received from the Association of UK University Hospitals, the
Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society criticised the
absence of any recommendation in the Review on the overall baseline
level of funding. Sir
David told us that:
]the £1.35 billion is there[
That is therefore an increase over what was there previously.
It is a very modest increase but it is an increase."
We look forward to the announcement
in the Comprehensive Spending Review regarding the Single Fund
budget, and expect the current combined budget for the MRC and
the NHS R&D function to be at least maintained.
11. Concerns regarding the division of funds between
basic, translational and applied research were also expressed
to this inquiry by the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Sir David recommended that the funding of translational research
be increased but that funding for basic research be kept at the
current level "until a more balanced portfolio is achieved"
as judged by the OSCHR.
This suggests that any future funding increase to translational
and clinical research may be at the expense of basic research.
and support the importance of translational and clinical research.
However, it is essential that the new proposals do not result
in decreased funding for basic research.
12. The Review's proposals include new arrangements
for the way in which the MRC and the NIHR bid for research funds
and how this money is allocated to each. The OSCHR will submit
a single bid to the Treasury for both the MRC and the NIHR. The
funding is then allocated to the MRC and the NIHR through the
DTI and the DH, according to allocations set for each body as
determined by OSCHR. There was concern in evidence from Cancer
Research UK that "the institutional arrangements do not become
an extra layer of debilitating bureaucracy".
The Committee asked Sir David whether OSCHR would increase the
administrative burden. He stated that:
"It gets the money, it sets the strategy, and
then it is up to the MRC and NIHR to deliver on that. The decisions
will be made in exactly the same way as they are at the moment
] The idea of this is to try and pull the two operations
together, to try to overcome a lot of those perverse incentives
that stop research moving forward."
13. There was also some concern expressed about the
impact of the new arrangements on the MRC and its structures.
The Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, South London and
Maudsley NHS Trust and King's College London told us in their
joint evidence submission that the MRC "is recognised throughout
the world as an organisation that funds the best science through
fair and equitable mechanisms driven by strategic goals. We believe
that the new single funding body should be based on these principles."
In addition the Royal Society recommended that "OSCHR safeguards
the highly effective processes for the distribution of funds that
are embedded within the MRC, and provides the potential for similar
standards of governance to be achieved within the NIHR."
the concerns submitted in evidence regarding the impact of the
proposed institutional arrangements and the possible effects upon
the MRC. We are firmly of the view that OSCHR should operate as
a light touch organisation that does not complicate the existing
successful administrative mechanisms of the MRC.
7 Ev 15, 19; Royal Society response to the Cooksey
Review of UK health research, Royal Society, January 2007,
Q 11 Back
Ev 19 Back
HM Treasury, A Review of UK Health Research Funding, December
2006, para 4.24; www.hm-treasury.gov.uk./media/56F/62/pbr06_cooksey_final_report_636.pdf Back
Ev 38 Back
Q 20 Back
Ev 13 Back
Royal Society response to the Cooksey Review of UK health research,
Royal Society, January 2007, www.royalsoc.ac.uk/displaypagedoc.asp?id=23824 Back