Chapter 7: Priorities in medical research: the House of Lords Select Committee
Concern with the funding of medical research came very much to the fore in the mid-1980s. Medical researchers expressed their anxieties both about the money available as well as about the organisation and management of research. This was the era of a Conservative administration under Margaret Thatcher. The government was very much concerned with public expenditure which they maintained had increased considerably under Callaghan and Wilson in the 1970s. The NHS and medical research were easy targets for reduction of expenditure and, although there was no actual reduction in the money spent on these areas, the rate of increase was reduced. This meant that there was a perceived dearth of funds, as described in Chapter 5, and there was a great deal of unrest, particularly in the medical profession. A number of questions and debates in the Houses of Parliament resulted in the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology forming a subcommittee on Priorities in Medical Research. The Committee was chaired by Lord Nelson of Stafford, Chairman of the large electrical company GEC, and had 13 other members (see Table 7.1). Six of these had a health background – nursing, physiology, general practice, medicine and pharmacology – one was an ethicist, one a chemist and one a noted mathematician and computer expert. Three had experience of university administration as Vice-Chancellors. The rest were drawn from other backgrounds and included a former head of the Foreign Office.
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