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Call for a public service research board to follow NHS example

University Hospital in Cardiff's Professor Jonathan Shepherd CBE

A public sector research board is needed to lift services from the dark ages and address social and economic issues, an eminent academic has urged.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd CBE, of the University Hospital in Cardiff, believes the rest of the public sector should follow the example of the NHS.

Speaking at a Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) conference in London, Professor Shepherd said: “Medical research is at the heart of cost-effective innovation in healthcare. Doctors and dentists who are also academics split their time between practising, research and teaching.

“A whole battery of clinical research programmes are co-ordinated every year by the National Institute for Health Research and carried out by practitioners. The research discoveries this generates are continuously translated into better practice by professionals on the front line.

“But there is no such research culture in many other public services. Research into areas like re-offending, preventing anti-social behaviour and better teaching practices could result in huge social and economic benefits for the taxpayer but there is no national public service forum or board in which research expertise in health can be shared with other services. Without this, some public services will remain in the dark ages.”

He added that research by teachers and nurses who stop practicing when they become academics can become “divorced from the realities of the front line” and lose “credibility”.

Delegates also heard how LSIS is driving research directly linked to practice and its improvement in the learning and skills sector. Schemes such as Research Development Fellowships, which fund individual practitioners researching topics identified as important, are paving the way for more relevant and effective results.

Jason Rainbow

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