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Policy Increasing research and innovation in health and social care


We want to encourage health research and use of new technologies because it’s important to the development of new, more effective treatments for NHS patients.

For example, we think there’s more potential to use genomics - analysis of genetic patterns - which is already being used to track the ‘superbugs’ MRSA and Clostridium dificile, and to treat certain types of cancer.

In a difficult financial environment, we need new approaches if we’re going to improve quality and productivity. We think we can get more out of health and social care services if we encourage innovation and base more decisions on evidence about what works.

Research is also important to growth in the UK’s life sciences industry - we want to make the UK the best place in the world for health research.


Making innovation a priority for the NHS

We’re making innovation and research a priority for NHS England. Innovation, health and wealth: one year on, published in December 2012, sets out how the NHS plans to encourage more innovation.

For example, the NHS will establish 15 Academic Health Science Networks by April 2014. These networks will help local NHS services find the research and informatics, services, education and training they need to be innovative.

Encouraging more health research

We’re providing funding and support to encourage more health research in the UK.

Using evidence to improve health and social care services

From April 2013, part of Public Health England (PHE)’s role will be to advise NHS services, councils and local health and wellbeing boards on solving public health problems like harmful drinking, smoking and obesity.

PHE will:

  • together with local services, identify what works - and provide the NHS with advice based on the evidence
  • bring together different sources of data on public health problems, and share that in a form that’s as useful as possible for people making decisions about public health

And we want more decisions about social care services to be based on evidence about what works. So from April 2013, we will give the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) responsibility for creating new standards and guidance on approaches to social care, based on evidence.


The 2005 research governance framework for health and social care and the governance arrangements for research ethics committees, updated in 2012, set out standards for carrying out research in the NHS.

‘Best research for best health’, the government’s strategy for health research, was published in 2006.

We set out plans for basing more decisions about social care on evidence in the 2010 white paper ‘Caring for our future’.

The ‘Strategy for UK life sciences: one year on’, published in December 2012, has details of our long-term plans to increase growth in the UK’s life sciences industry. And the Human Genomics Strategy Group published recommendations for increasing the use of genomics in January 2012.

Who we’re working with

The new Health Research Authority is responsible for protecting the interests of patients in health research, so more people feel confident enough to take part. And it will also help to make sure that industry sees the UK as a great place to do health research.