Increasing concern about the state of basic and clinical research in England during the 1980s led to an influential parliamentary review. Surprisingly, the review recommended the strengthening of public health and health services research through the establishment of a research and development (R&D) program for the National Health Service (NHS). The program that started in 1991 was unique in that it was fully integrated into the management structure of the NHS. No country had ever attempted such an ambitious approach.

While a review of the first five years of the program reveals many achievements, it also raises several concerns: Debate about the philosophy and aims of the program continues; the need to maintain political support requires constant attention; policy changes in other areas need to be accommodated; central control of a national, coordinated R&D program has to be guarded; methods of priority setting need to be enhanced; insufficient human resources to run the program have to be contended with; and the program needs to be rigorously evaluated.

Other countries with a unified health system could learn much from the English experience. Countries with pluralist systems might benefit from specific parts of the experience.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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