The future of medical research in the NHS is seriously threatened by a brain drain, underfunding and the destabilising effects of "piecemeal" decisions resulting from the Government's NHS reforms, a House of Lords select committee was warned yesterday.
The assessment comes in written evidence from the Council of Deans of UK Medical Schools, one of the most senior bodies in the medical establishment.
Its evidence came as the Government admitted to the Independent yesterday that there was a shortfall of pounds 135m a year in a key area of funding for NHS research and training: the Service Increment for Teaching Research, paid to the main university teaching hospitals to offset the extra costs of their academic work.
The estimate was prepared by Department of Health economists, with analytical support from consultants, for a joint Department of Health and Department for Education committee, the Steering Group on Undergraduate Medical and Dental Education and Research.
Last week, Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, announced that pounds 40m extra would be allocated for NHS research and teaching in 1995, bringing to more than pounds 530m the SITR funds dedicated to NHS costs and medical and dental education and research. However, this would come from the existing budgets of the purchasers: health authorities and GP fundholders.
The deans said the move amounted to robbing Peter to pay Paul. "To divert essential infrastructure funds to support research projects in other fields is not a sensible approach to managing the nation's research and development," they said. …