Tomlinson proposals 'put medical research at risk'

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The Independent Online
THE FUTURE of medical research in Britain is severely threatened by recommendations in the report by Sir Bernard Tomlinson, on London's health services, published last Friday.

Without special funding, research institutes and their associated hospitals will not survive, the British Postgraduate Medical Federation, the biggest group of the research institutes, claims.

In addition, it says Sir Bernard's proposals for research and postgraduate education will create more bureaucracy and it is wrong to say that the single specialty hospitals are too small.

Unless special arrangements are made Britain will cease to be a world leader in medical and pharmaceutical innovation, Dr Malcolm Green, the federation's director, said yesterday.

'It is absolutely vital that we secure a sound mechanism for funding future postgraduate medical research in this country.'

The federation, a school of London University, is made up of eight research institutes which are themselves attached to single specialty hospitals, for example, the Institute of Child Health is attached to the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street.

The institutes and the special hospitals enjoy a symbiotic relationship in which the institutes carry out research and are responsible for training qualified doctors in the specialist hospitals, which provide the patient base.

The special hospitals form the Special Health Authorities (SHAs), which are directly funded by the Department of Health. The special hospitals receive 71 per cent of their funds from the department, because of their special status. The institutes receive 20 per cent from the Universities Funding Council.

The potential patient base alone is not sufficient to pay for them. The Tomlinson report says there should be inquiries and discussions in each case, but recommends that ultimately, the SHA hospitals become part of the new National Health Service market, so that they compete for patients.

The federation is the largest of four postgraduate schools in London and last year attracted pounds 28m for research, competitively, more than Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh combined.