PM's science adviser Gluckman says health sector should do more research

Sir Peter Gluckman said the Crown spends $15 billion on healthcare every year.

Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, says more funds should be poured into medical research, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the government's health budget.

The government today launched a new 2017-2027 health research strategy after last year's $97 million increase for the Health Research Council, staggered over five years. The funds mark the "largest increase in health research funding New Zealand has ever seen," Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith said during the launch of the report at the Clinical Trials Unit at Wellington Hospital. By 2020, annual investment in the HRC will increase to $120 million. The goal is to create a world-leading research and innovation system, he said.

Still, Gluckman said the Crown spends $15 billion on healthcare every year and even with the large increase in the Health Research Council funding "we are still spending less than 1 percent of our health budget" on research.

The onus is on the health sector to carry out the necessary operational research to be more effective and "do better by its patients," he said. "A business of $15 billion in any other sector would be spending at least 1 percent of its budget on operational research just to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its delivery," he added. That equates to about $150 million.

Goldsmith wouldn't comment on whether the health sector is spending enough, sheeting responsibility back to Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. However, he underscored the government has "significantly" boosted funding for health research.

"We are mindful of all the competing pressures and the overall science investment has been one of the largest areas of increased investment over the last few years by the government," he told BusinessDesk on the sidelines of the event.

The strategy was designed because "we knew we were making a big contribution so it was important to work out the priorities and some things we can focus on," Goldsmith said. The next steps involve setting up an external advisory group to advise on implementation. Progress will be evaluated by Goldsmith and Coleman every six months, who will provide regular reports to the Cabinet.


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