Education And Debate

Setting priorities for research and development in the NHS: a case study on the interface between primary and secondary care

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7012.1076 (Published 21 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1076
  1. Roger Jones, Wolfson professora,
  2. Tara Lamont, head of sectionb,
  3. Andrew Haines, regional directorc
  1. a Department of General Practice, United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, London SE11 6SP
  2. bResearch and Development Directorate, NHS Executive, Leeds
  3. c Research and Development Directorate, NHS Executive, North Thames
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Jones.
  • Accepted 3 August 1995

Summary points

  • Research in the NHS has traditionally been “top down” and investigator led

  • The NHS research and development strategy is the first systematic attempt to identify research priorities inrelation to health need

  • The NHS Central Research and Development Committee has set up a series of advisory groups to identify priorities for funding in key areas

  • An advisory group met during 1993 to determine 21 priority topics for research and development funding in relation to the interface between primary and secondary care

  • The process of priority setting enables the views of consumers as well as experts to be incorporated into a problem led approach to the identification of research and development priorities

Since 1991 the NHS has attempted to identify and prioritise its needs for research and development in a systematic manner. This has not been done before and there is little evidence on which to draw. Multidisciplinary expert groups have identified priorities in different topics using explicit criteria and after widespread consultation within the NHS and research community to identify pressing problems and opportunities for research. This paper focuses on a review completed in 1993 to identify research and development priorities for the NHS in relation to the interface between primary and secondary care. The review covered several recent developments which require evaluation. The authors describe the process used to identify research and development priorities in this complex subject and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. This case study should help to stimulate a wider debate on methods of identifying priorities, particularly those using participatory approaches, in research and non-research contexts.

Medical research has traditionally been investigator led, proposals for funding being judged largely on scientific merit rather than in relation to health needs.1 The NHS research and development programme is a new departure and the first attempt …

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