It has been a privilege to work with the health and social care research community to oversee the creation of Health and Care Research Wales and to be its first Director.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank everybody within the Health and Care Research Wales community for their support over the last five years and feel proud that we have achieved so much through working together in a strategically coordinated manner.
I would also like to thank and recognise the key roles played by other individuals, including the Ministers, Cabinet Secretaries, Chief Medical Officers and members of the Welsh Government’s R&D Division in the success of Health and Care Research Wales. They have recognised the importance of research and development as a key enabler of improvement to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the population.
Since its launch three years ago, Health and Care Research Wales has raised the profile of health and social care research in Wales.
Through the introduction of themed research calls, and other initiatives, we have been able to better align research funding to the priorities of Welsh Government without compromising on quality.
There has been a shift towards a greater emphasis on applied, public health and social care research, helping to create a better interface with those responsible for service improvement, the translation of research findings into practice and research questions being informed by people’s and services’ needs.
The Health and Care Research Wales Support and Delivery Service has been reconfigured to take an all Wales approach to support the delivery of excellent research accessible to everyone in Wales.
It has been very gratifying to see the outstanding progress made by our Centres, Units, Infrastructure Support Groups and Clinical Trials Units. The fact they have generated over £200 million of research income and created over 800 jobs in the last year is testament to their success and the impact they are having on Wales.
HealthWise Wales has established itself as our flagship initiative to develop a population based approach to health and care research. Through facilitating public engagement and involvement in research along with the creation of a research cohort of the public in Wales, HealthWise Wales is well placed to achieve its full potential and justify its inclusion in Prosperity For All, the Welsh Government’s National Strategy.
The strong inclusion of research in Prosperity For All and A Healthier Wales, the Welsh Government’s plan for health and social care in Wales, signals the high level support for health and social care research and its importance for the future of Wales.
A major achievement for Health and Care Research Wales has been the integration of research into Social Care Wales and the adoption of a knowledge mobilisation pathway to ensure synthesised research evidence informs improvement activity. Health and Care Research Wales’ School for Social Care Research has been and will continue to be instrumental in this work.
A key focus for future years must be on knowledge management and ensuring high quality research is impactful and really does make a positive difference to health and care services and the population of Wales. Health and Care Research Wales’ major role in facilitating Welsh Government work in this area should help create a more joined up approach that harnesses the complementarity of the high quality research, innovation and improvement work being undertaken in Wales. We really do have an opportunity to create a whole system that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
The current economic climate has resulted in a reducing health and social care research budget and this has been a challenge. Despite this, we have seen significant growth in activity and many examples of excellent research being undertaken in Wales.
I remain committed to health and social care research in Wales and hope to be able to continue to make a major contribution on my return to Cardiff University when I leave Welsh Government on 31 July 2018. I look forward to remaining an active member of the Health and Care Research Wales community and to supporting its ongoing essential work.
In the interim, Carys Thomas and Michael Bowdery will act as joint Head of R&D Division, Welsh Government and Co-director of Health and Care Research Wales.
Professor Jon Bisson, Director of Health and Care Research Wales