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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the noble Lord has made a number of points. I agree completely and say again that the MRC has gained an excellent world-wide reputation for its funding of medical research, and I do not think that anything in the report suggests otherwise. A number of criticisms have been made of certain specific issues and certainly there is a need to improve some of the financial planning and commitment. However, those problems should not detract from the excellent work carried out by the council in the past.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope that I made it clear in my original Answer that we take the report seriously and shall consider it in detail. However, I do not think that the noble Lord is correct to say that the UK Biobank project was not peer-reviewed. In fact, it was peer-reviewed by an international panel. Furthermore, it was not reviewed on the basis of a normal grant project, but rather as a major infrastructure project. Such projects are never
Lord Winston: My Lords, I declare an interest as a practising scientist whose laboratory has repeatedly benefited from funding granted by the Medical Research Council, although obviously from time to time we, too, have felt disgruntled when we have not secured a grant.
Is it not fair to say that the Medical Research Council is to be congratulated on the excellence of medical research in Britain, due in large part to its scientific leadership and to the standards and levels of funding which the Government have allowed the Medical Research Council to contribute? May that long continue.
It is essential that large projects such as UK Biobank compete side by side with smaller projects, and that those large projects continue. As a way of improving funding from the Medical Research Council, does the Minister agree that some more attention might be given to extending project grants rather than merely collaborative grants? Collaborative grants are important, but project grants often launch new science in a slightly different way.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree about the quality of the MRC's science. Project grants versus collaborative grants is another area of debate within the medical research community. We need to look at this very carefully and discuss it more fully with the MRC before we give a reply.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, it is quite difficult to maintain the usual courtesies between the Houses when in a report from another place this immensely imaginative project, the UK Biobank, is described as politically motivated. Is it not a fact that the project is leading the world in bringing together a person's genetic make-up, environment and lifestyle in a unique wayhalf a million people will be in the surveywhich will enable society in future to predict, prevent and cure some of the world's most devastating illnesses?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not quite understand what it means to say that this project is politically driven. I fear it is simply a rather low-level form of abuse to describe it as political. I do not think that that is the kind of abuse another place should indulge in.
I agree with the noble Lord that the project is leading the world in this respect. Various other countries see it as a major and important source of valuable information. I regard it as an extremely important project.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we have embarked upon a long-term programme of modernisation to increase the capacity of the mental health service, provide better access to effective treatment and care, reduce unfair variation and raise standards. This includes action to implement the national service framework for mental health. Our strategy, as always, will be informed by research and development.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can she confirm or dispute a report that mental illness is the cause of 50 per cent of all measured disability, yet only 12 per cent of NHS funding and 6 per cent of the medical research budget is spent on it? If those figures are broadly correctand I believe that the research went up to 2001will my noble friend tell the House what the Government intend to do to change this very sorry picture?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I suspect that no one knows better than the noble Lord just how long a history of neglect mental health has in this country and the extent of the under-funding that we inherited in 1997. We have made mental health a priority in several ways, primarily through the first national service framework that we established, with seven standards aimed at raising standards across mental health services. Those standards are generating improvement in community development services and in many different ways. We have made £300 million extra available for three years to 200304 to develop prevention and care services. We have invested in finding out what is needed, primarily by establishing a new institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, which will play a key role in research and development and good local practice. I think that we can look forward to a better future in mental health.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, are the Government satisfied with the availability of the latest forms of medication which can help some of the mentally ill to lead reasonably normal lives safely, outside institutions?
Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords, there is a new range of atypical antipsychotic drugs which seem to be helping people significantly. We understand there have been some concerns about delays, but all PCTs are required to follow the NICE guidance after three months and make those drugs available. We believe that they are making a difference.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Minister referred to the national service framework. Can she confirm that money will be adequate to implement the national service framework and that it is being received by those trusts to which it has been allocated. Can she also confirm whether the Mind Out mental health campaign, which is an excellent government initiative, will carry on beyond this year, whether it will be funded and whether it will be evaluated by the Government?
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