Professor Dame Sally Davies: Ten Years of the NIHR: Achievements and Challenges for the Next Decade

In November 2016 Professor Dame Sally Davies delivered the 23rd OHE Annual Lecture on the topic of: Ten Years of the NIHR: Achievements and Challenges for the Next Decade. The lecture is now available as a publication, available for download here.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), created in April 2006, is a “virtual” organisation often referred to as the research arm of the NHS. It funds health and care research in the UK, translating discoveries into practical products, treatments, devices and procedures, involving patients and the public in all its work.

The figure below is a schematic of how the NIHR system is intended to work: each part of the system supports the other, ultimately translating the knowledge from basic research into benefits for patients.

Figure 1: NIHR: A Health Research System

Source: NIHR, 2016.

Dame Sally Davies and Dr Russell Hamilton were the driving forces behind creation of the NIHR.

Through the course of the OHE Annual Lecture Dame Sally:

  • traced the development and impact of the NIHR, including the challenges in establishing it;
  • described how the NIHR has helped create what the US Institute of Medicine has termed a “learning health care system,” (IOM, 2013) including the use of “Big Data” and gathering “real world evidence”;
  • discussed how to demonstrate the value, in terms of both health and wealth, of major NHS investment in R&D;
  • explored how to keep the UK punching above its weight in both public and private biomedical research expenditure and output;
  • discussed NIHR’s efforts to increase the number and appreciation of women in science using the Athena SWAN initiative;
  • outlined lessons for both high income and middle income countries about organising health system R&D; and,
  • examined the development of UK research capability in sequencing the human genome and translating the results into clinical practice.

Dame Sally was appointed Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government in March 2011. Dame Sally is an independent advisor to the UK Government on medical matters, with particular responsibilities regarding Public Health. From 2004-2016, Dame Sally was the Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health, where she was actively involved in NHS R&D from its establishment and founded the NIHR. Dame Sally received her DBE in 2009.

Posted in Drug Development/R&D, Educational, Health Care Systems, Innovation, Research | Tagged annual lecture