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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Benefiting from the research effect

by Nick Perkins

A new report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), ‘Benefiting from the research effect, sets out the advantages to the NHS of encouraging clinicians to participate in research and how NHS Trusts can engender a strong research culture. This follows on from similar campaigns by the National Institute for Health Research, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges & Faculties in Scotland.

Patients in research-active institutions have better outcomes and are more likely to benefit from earlier access to new treatments, technologies and approaches.

For more complex conditions, such as brain tumours, participation in research can provide patients with a sense of purpose, empowerment and pride.

For senior doctors, whilst the NHS Consultant Contract allocates dedicated time to undertake research, many clinicians cite a range of barriers, including time constraints and financial pressures, that prevent them from carrying this out. We know that neurosurgeons, in particular, are facing increased workloads from not only a rising incidence of primary and secondary brain tumours but also work in a specialism that sees them perform surgery for a range of disorders. For them, protected time for clinical research is essential.

Time for activities such as research must be provided by NHS Trusts and we call on them to do this in our Find A Cure manifesto, Brain Tumour Research also ensured this ask was included in the recent cross-cancer One Cancer Voice manifesto, compiled by more than 20 cancer charities.  

The RCP’s report also highlights the need to translate research from the lab bench to patients’ bedsides. This can often be facilitated by a close working relationship between researchers employed by universities and NHS clinicians (as happens at Brain Tumour Research’s Centre of Excellence at Imperial College London, which comprises both laboratory and surgical teams).

'Benefiting from the research effectalso references another means by which research and clinical care could be better integrated – via clinical academics (clinicians employed by universities, but who spend part of their time treating NHS patients). The report states that only 5% of the NHS medical consultant workforce are clinical academics. For brain tumours there is a real shortage of these posts, which was why we made the establishment of clinical fellowships, to help grow the number of research-active neuro-oncologists, another call in Find A Cure.

Without research, healthcare professionals would not have the arsenal of treatments, techniques and technologies they have today. As the RCP’s report makes clear, letting NHS  staff participate in research also has a range of holistic benefits, both for patients and for the NHS.  

Brain Tumour Research is pleased that the importance of research is increasingly being realised across the health system. We will continue to lobby for reforms such as more research time, integration of researchers with routine clinical practice and more academic fellowships in neuro-oncology when speaking to key politicians, using the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours and via our membership of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission

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