Wednesday 15 June 2011

Research result for Health Bill campaign

If you have been following Breast Cancer Campaign on Facebook or Twitter you will see that we have been campaigning for the Government to include a specific duty on the Secretary of State for Health and the new clinical commissioning groups to promote research. The changes that the Government is proposing to make to the Health Bill were announced yesterday and this is included.

We are obviously delighted that the Government has agreed to this – and thanks to all our staff and supporters for contacting their MPs and spreading the word to family and friends. As you can see it made a real difference.

The specific research mentions in the document published by the Government are a new duty for the Secretary of State to promote research; for clinical commissioning groups to promote research and innovation and the use of research evidence, in line with the current duty on the NHS Commissioning Board. They have pledged to ensure that a culture of research and innovation is embedded in the arrangements for both the Board and Public Health England. Finally, to make sure that clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board ensure that treatment costs for patients who are taking part in research funded by Government and Research Charity partner organisations are funded through normal arrangements for commissioning patient care, as set out in existing guidance.

Of course, colleagues here will continue to follow progress with the Bill closely to see how these pledges translate into amendments and to see what other issues relating to research we can promote, now we have so many MPs committed to being research champions.

I would say watch this space – but rather become a fan on Campaign’s Facebook page or follow us on Twitter, and watch THAT space.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

The best brains in breast cancer research

I was going to call this blog “This IS the Big Society in action” but was worried that you might not read beyond the headline. Please continue – it is worth it.

One of the things I will miss very much is observing the meetings of our Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). It is an opportunity to learn about what is new and exciting in research and it is that stimulation that I will miss.

The meeting of the SAB is a gathering of some of the best brains in breast cancer research to advise the trustee board on how to allocate the funding so that only the best research is supported.

What isn’t generally recognised is that all of this is done on a voluntary basis – it isn’t part of the day job. I had the opportunity to talk to the Health Minister, Paul Burstow, about it earlier this year and he was surprised to learn the extent of the voluntary work that scientists do. This is not just for Breast Cancer Campaign – any charity that is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities will have an independent peer review process and reviewers are not paid.

In our case each grant application is reviewed by between two and six experts in the field not only from the UK but also abroad. One review can take anything up to two hours. Members of our Scientific Advisory Board are each allocated several grants to review and spend the same amount of time per grant. They then travel to London for one to two days twice a year and present the grants to the full board who then discuss them. At the end of the meeting the final scores are added up and the decision made.

However excellent the services of the Travelodge where they stay are – it isn’t five-star luxury. A pasta or pizza in a local restaurant is hardly going to land us in trouble with the new bribery laws. So why do they give up all this spare time to do this? A passion for science and a determination to improve the lives of women with breast cancer!

I don’t see this reflected in statistics on volunteering – but that is what it is and we couldn’t do our work without it.