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Medical research ‘on a promise’

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said that the medical research sector would benefit greatly from the Government’s pledge to deliver a $250 million medical research innovation fund, if re-elected.

The fund – comprising $125 million from the Government and $125 million from private investors – is part the Government’s initial response to the April 2013 recommendations of the McKeon Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research.

Dr Hambleton said that a robust program of health and medical research is essential to an efficient and properly functioning health system.

“The Government’s McKeon Research Package is welcome and it must be built upon,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Increased support for health and medical research in areas such as child health, chronic disease, primary care, clinical trials and basic epidemiological and laboratory research is vital if Australia is to gain the maximum benefit from the medical and scientific expertise that exists in our hospitals, universities, and the community.

“Science and medical research must be above politics.

“All governments should remain committed to making a more substantial investment in health and medical research to make Australia an international leader in this field.

“The Coalition is on the record with guaranteed certainty of funding for medical research, and the Greens have made a commitment to medical research in their science and research policy.”

In its 2013 Budget Submission, the AMA called on the Government to increase its support for health and medical research by at least 10 per cent each year over the next four years to provide additional funding to:

  • enable the National Health and Medical Research Council to provide stronger support for research to address rising rates of conditions such as diabetes, cancer and dementia, and to build workplace productivity and address population ageing;
  • build health research infrastructure and increase program and project grant funding to improve the evidence base for heath care, and to ensure that high quality evidence is implemented as an integrated component of routine clinical care. This is essential to the evaluation of health reforms, and will provide evidence to drive excellence and continuous improvement in the health system;
  • support an arrangement where groups conducting research that produces cost savings for the community can share in a proportion of those savings in order to fund future research;
  • provide stronger support for clinical trials to capitalise on the results of basic research. This would be best achieved by central infrastructure support for the non-cancer clinical trials group of the same type that is provided to the cancer clinical trials groups coordinated by Cancer Australia;
  • increase funding to enable innovative ideas and new technologies from Australia to be marketed internationally in an environment where the available venture capital support is discordant with the quality of publicly funded science; and
  • reform tax and other relevant arrangements to provide an environment for greater and more effective philanthropic contributions to medical research.

Funding of research within hospitals is often lost because it is not separated out from the cost of clinical care (and can be used to fund clinical care).  Funding for research is also not appropriately coordinated across areas of need when it is allocated at hospital level.

To avoid these problems, the Government must:

  • explicitly identify the research component within the cost of health care, and
  • establish a health system-wide process for distributing such funding so that it has maximum impact.

You can read the full Labor policy at http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/australianlaborparty/pages/1097/attachments/original/1376962917/FactSheet_McKeonResearch.pdf?1376962917

John Flannery

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