Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Uncertainties Page

Research to decrease areas of clinical uncertainty

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 04 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d369
  1. Andrew Farmer, professor of general practice1,
  2. Ruairidh Milne, senior clinical lecturer in public health2,
  3. Tom Walley, professor of clinical pharmacology, director of NIHR HTA programme3
  1. 1NIHR School for Primary Care Research, Department of Primary Health Care, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK
  2. 2NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  3. 3Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GF, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Farmer andrew.farmer{at}

Uncertainties abound in healthcare. The 2008 editorial by Chalmers that launched the BMJ’s Uncertainties Page series highlighted the enormous harms that can come from failure to identify and reduce them.1 In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme is charged with producing independent and rigorous research about the effectiveness of different healthcare technologies to resolve important areas of uncertainty. The HTA programme was established in 1993 and is funded by the Department of Health as part of the National Institute for Health Research ( The article this week in the BMJ’s Uncertainties Page series is the first of several articles in this series that will focus on areas of clinical uncertainty being investigated by HTA research.2

The HTA programme aims to meet the information needs of the NHS and works by consulting widely to identify topics for research. Suggestions are made through a web based suggestion system (; the HTA also identifies topics by reviewing reports and systematic reviews from bodies such as the National …

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