Scientists quit over NHS cash changes: Cancer expert bemoans 'big blow' to crucial medical research

TWO of Britain's most brilliant geneticists are resigning from posts at London teaching hospitals, and yesterday blamed the Government's changes to funding of the National Health Service for undermining scientific research.

Both scientists led teams whose work has been of direct practical benefit to medicine, rather than abstract pure science with no obvious end result. Their departure is likely to be followed by others, and have a demoralising effect on the National Health Service.

When the introduction of a market within the National Health Service was announced in the late 1980s, several scientists expressed fears that research would be in jeopardy, because in the short term it adds to the cost of a hospital.

The two are Professor Bob Williamson, who is leaving as head of genetics at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, west London, to become professor of genetics at Melbourne University; and Professor Lucio Luzzatto, head of haematology at Hammersmith Hospital, who is to take up a job at New York's Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. They both emphasised that they were going to excellent jobs, but the changes in funding had played a major role in their decision.

Their loss was described as a 'big blow' by Karol Sikora, a cancer expert and editor of the journal Gene Therapy, who said: 'These people are the leaders of British science. Why should they waste their time on committees carrying out hours of paperwork when they should be allowed to get on with the research that is so desperately needed?'

Over the past 20 years, Professor Williamson has pioneered gene therapy for cystic fibrosis sufferers. He headed the laboratory which was unusually productive in making significant discoveries about human genetics.

More recently scientists working under him were the first to show there was genetic damage associated with inherited forms of premature Alzheimer's disease, leading to a better understanding of the disease.

In a body blow to British research, that entire research team moved en masse to the US because they could not get proper funding for their work.

He is respected not only as a great scientist in his own right, but as one who has both led and inspired others.

He told the London Evening Standard yesterday that changes in funding of the health service which make hospitals compete for funds with one another have 'poisoned the environment between research groups who should be collaborating with one another and instead are being forced into competition.'

Professor Luzzatto said: 'What the Government is doing to the NHS is suicidal. They are repudiating its research base.'

Reacting to the two resignations, the junior health minister Baroness Cumberlege said at question time in the Lords that people often changed jobs 'for a variety of reasons including family reasons'.

She added: 'Scientists with international reputations are few in number. They work all over the world and it is not surprising that two should choose to go abroad. Many in fact choose to come to the UK from abroad and the net result if that we attract marginally more than we export.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine