Future-proofing UK Health Research: a people-centred, coordinated approach

The Academy of Medical Sciences has convened a Working Group of experts from academia, industry, charities and the NHS to explore the sustainability of health research in the UK.

Status: Ongoing

In 2021/22, the Academy of Medical Sciences convened a Working Group of experts from academia, industry, charities and the NHS to explore the actions needed to future-proof health research in the UK. 

The final report, published in May 2023, has been produced by 30 experts from across the UK, including established and emerging research leaders, patients, carers and representatives from the public, private and charitable sectors. It details key threats to UK health research and the steps needed to protect it.

Download the report here or from the downloads section of this page.

For decades, the United Kingdom has been widely recognised as one of the best places for health research bringing improved health, social and economic benefits for the people of the UK and the wider world.

Research during the COVID-19 pandemic produced revolutionary new vaccines and treatments against the disease. In recent years, discoveries have made possible new therapies for cancer and autoimmmune diseases amongst others, while public health research led to the life-saving smoking ban.

But this progress cannot be taken for granted, the Working Group has found, and urgent action is needed to stop the UK from losing exceptional strengths. 

The report, Future-proofing UK Health Research: a people-centred, coordinated approach’ is a timely and evidence-based review of the long-term sustainability of the UK health research system. It was informed by leaders and organisations across all parts of the research system including patients and carers.

The project, chaired by Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow FMedSci and Professor Sir Peter Mathieson FRSE FMedSci, analysed the strengths in the health research system and identified factors which threaten the UK’s ability to deliver health and economic benefits in the long term.

Issues identified by the report 

The current UK health research system is no longer fit for purpose because:  

  • It presents too many barriers to too many people, 
  • It discourages the movement of people between sectors,  
  • It fails to cover the full cost of health research, and 
  • It does not do enough to support research in the NHS.  

 At risk is the UK’s ability to deliver world-leading health research and the benefits that brings to patients and the public.

Solutions to future-proof the research system

Excellent research needs a strong, future-proofed research system that allows talented researchers, science and innovation to thrive. This project develops a vision for what sustainable health research in the UK should look like. 

The report urges all stakeholders, including UK policymakers, and funders, to address the glaring issues, and offers four key recommendations:

  1. We must place people at the heart of the UK health research system. Research culture and career structures can be narrow, inflexible, precarious and exclusive, undermining the ability of diverse individuals, including patients, and those with broad expertise to fully explore their potential and deliver innovations.
  2. We must ensure talented people can develop careers that span sectors to address a lack of movement of researchers between roles in public, private and charitable research sectors.
  3. We must ensure that the true cost of excellent health research is adequately covered, to address a funding model which relies on cross-subsidy from international students as the total cost of research in universities is not covered by any funder.
  4. We must maximise the research potential of the NHS, which currently struggles to make health research part of the norm.


Hear from people within the system as they share their experiences and call for urgent action to be taken to protect the health research that saves and improves lives everyday:


This report launched on 10 May 2023. Read the press release.

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