Here in Wales, a month or so ago the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR) published a document outlining ideas for its restructuring, and opened a discussion on how research should be prioritised, organised and supported in the future. NISCHR says that it:
[…] proposes to engage its stakeholders, including patients, the public, the NHS, social care organisations, universities, industry, the third sector and other government departments to review the infrastructure and programmes it currently funds and help determine what changes should be made.
Now, details of a series of open meetings have appeared. I’ve registered for the November 29th meeting taking place at the Cardiff City Stadium. I will also be offering up some ideas for the School of Healthcare Sciences’ collective response.
A number of things are currently brought together under the NISCHR umbrella. Funding is provided for national-level registered research groups (RRGs), regionally based academic health science collaborations (or partnerships) and a biomedical research centre and series of biomedical research units. Social care research is assisted through capacity-building funding. Support is also provided for Involving People, and for all-Wales training in research governance and related matters. Studies on the NISCHR portfolio are eligible for funded, in-the-field, help via a network of clinical studies officers and research nurses. NISCHR also oversees approval processes for NHS research, funds a number of trials units and has (this year) launched a faculty. There is also the small matter of NISCHR’s competitive funding schemes, which provide project-by-project support for high-quality studies of importance to health and social care in Wales.
Given all of this, NISCHR’s review is, I think, an important process to be contributing to. One of the NISCHR schemes mentioned in the review document is the Research Capacity Building Collaboration for Nursing and Allied Health Professionals (RCBC Wales). This has been an excellent initiative, entirely delivering (so far as I can tell) on its ambitions to develop capacity. As such, it deserves to be continued (and better still, expanded). I have to declare an interest here, of course, being an alumni of the RCBC Wales scheme having secured a postdoctoral fellowship in 2006. This was the funding which allowed me to investigate the establishment, work and wider system impact of crisis resolution and home treatment services, as I’ve variously blogged about in the past here, here and here.
The NISCHR document also draws attention to the use of Welsh health and social care research funds to support NIHR NETSCC Programmes. This paves the way for researchers in Wales to apply, on an equal footing to colleagues in England, for support from the HS&DR Programme, the HTA Programme and others. This mechanism facilitates cross-UK collaboration, which has to be a good thing. It is only through this support that Wales-based colleagues and I have been able to work on the COCAPP and RiSC projects.
I also see mention by NISCHR of an ongoing review of the operation of R&D offices, and in this regard I hope that a way is found to further rationalise approval and governance processes. The NHS research passport system could be better (it’s not really much of a ‘passport’ at all), and there are variations still in the ways different R&D offices process applications.
It is also clear that NISCHR is considering the level and type of support it offers to its all-Wales RRGs, and the connections these might have with biomedical research centres and biomedical research units working in overlapping areas. NISCHR is, if I understand this correctly, thinking through how organisations like the Mental Health Research Network Cymru and the National Centre for Mental Health might relate.
So, there we have it: evidence that changes to health and social care research organisation and funding in Wales are on the cards, with plenty of time remaining for people with an interest to get involved in shaping future arrangements.