Message to ASMR Members from Professor Naomi Rogers, ASMR President

On Friday 5th April, the Honourable Tanya Plibersek released the long awaited final report from the McKeon Review, dated February 2013.

ASMR’s vision is that health and medical research is part of the whole of health, underpinning the preventative, screening and treatment strategies which  improve patient outcomes and contribute to Australia’s economic wellbeing. We agree that health and medical research should be embedded in a health system where policy is informed by evidence.

ASMR supports the McKeon reviews recommendations to:

  • establish sector leadership  and governance
  • establishment of IHRCs
  • research focused health professionals
  • accelerating clinical trial reform
  • supporting and possibly expanding national HMR priorities or strategic topics
  • strategies around workforce
  • streamlining competitive grant process, longer grant duration and funding of indirect costs
  • enabling infrastructure and capabilities
  • enhancing public health research and health services research
  • enhance commercialisation environment
  • attract philanthropy and other investment sources

The ASMR believes that efficient leadership and governance of the sector is not best addressed by new or additional layers of bureaucracy. A properly resourced NHMRC is capable of fulfilling this role, providing direction and focus, facilitating translation, providing policy advice, driving reforms and monitoring outcomes.

The value of IHRC’s and research focused health professionals is not in doubt but we would hope there is an evidence base for the number of centres and practitioner fellowships recommended. In addition, there are ambiguities around the funding source for these initiatives.

The review recommends that investment in Local Hospital Networks (LHN) and NHMRC be increased to 3-4% of health expenditure but does not clearly define a LHN and the type of research that is/would be funded. Is this research independent to NHMRC funded research? Importantly, the McKeon Review appears not to recommend additional investment in NHMRC. Under the McKeon proposal, NHMRC investment would remain at the status-quo of 0.8% of total health spending, while investment in the vaguely defined LHN research seemingly increases.

The NHMRC has a proven track record of providing exceptional returns on investment (1,2) and in view of the approaching health crisis foreshadowed by the Government’s Intergenerational Reports, it is disappointing that the McKeon Review does not recommend increased investment in NHMRC or address in any detail the challenge of health and aged care expenditure escalating from 9.3% GDP in 2003 to 12.4% in 2033 (3).

Establishing a secured funding model for health and medical research will underpin the administration, infrastructure and workforce needed for a viable and dynamic sector and help to assure the future health and economic needs of our children and children’s children.

ASMR has developed a strong, evidence based business case to lift investment into the NHMRC to 3% of total health expenditure by 2023. We believe this level of investment in a system which has proven its value, is a realistic and achievable approach designed to mitigate both the health and economic impact of the projected escalation in expenditure. 

ASMR embraces the vision of embedding of health and medical research in the health system and the formation of policy informed by evidence. We will continue to push for the acceptance and implementation of our policy platform on behalf of the sector.

Both the summary and full review are available from http://www.mckeonreview.org.au/
Members may have seen recent media references to late payments of NHMRC funding to some MRIs. It is our understanding that this is a purely administrative matter and does not represent any change in the amount of funding to MRIs over the life of the grant.

With best wishes,
Prof Naomi Rogers
President, ASMR

1. Deloitte Access Economics. Returns on NHMRC funded Research and  Development. In: 2011, http://www.asmr.org.au/Publications.html

2. Deloitte Access Economics. Extrapolated returns on investment in NHMRC  medical research. In: 2012, http://www.asmr.org.au/Publications.html

3. Australian Government, The Treasury 2010. Australia to 2050: future  challenges The 2010 Intergenerational Report. In: http://www.treasury.gov.au/igr/igr2010/default.asp

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