Continuing concern about the fiscal deficit makes it likely that government funding of health and medical research will remain under scrutiny. This OHE Consulting study, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, explores the interdependence between publicly funded and charity funded medical research.  In particular, it focuses on whether and how changes in the levels of government funding can affect private funding for charities, medical research and the UK economy as a whole.

The research included a literature review, an interview programme involving key funders and stakeholders directly involved in the UK medical research system, and a workshop that provided an element of peer review.

The study found substantial benefits, both financial and qualitative, from the existence of a diversity of funders for UK medical research.  It also found that future reductions in the level of government financial support for medical research are likely to cause disproportionate damage to the ability of charities to raise funds.  Public spending on medical research stimulates additional private donations to charities; a cut would have the opposite effect by signalling a decline in the perceived importance of funding for charities and for medical research.

Also identified are broader negative effects that would follow a reducing in public spending.  These include, for example, a decline in UK GDP, the possible shifting of the locus of some research to outside the UK, a weakening of the UK’s medical research capacity, and potential harm to standards of care for patients in the UK.