Parliamentary Question: Health and Wellbeing Policy (Academic Research)

Health and Wellbeing Policy (Academic Research)
7. Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): To ask the Scottish Government what use it makes of academic research from Scottish universities and colleges in formulating health and wellbeing policy. (S4O-02843)
The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Alex Neil): Many of the outputs of clinical research are universal and therefore research from academic sources from both within and outwith Scotland is of value in formulating the Scottish Government’s health and wellbeing policy. The chief scientist office, through its two research funding committees, funds high-quality, peer-reviewed research of relevance to the health and wellbeing of the people of Scotland. Lay summaries of the outputs of that research are made available to Scottish Government health policy colleagues. More generally, the Scottish intercollegiate guidelines network develops evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the national health service in Scotland. SIGN guidelines are derived from a systematic review of all the scientific literature available.
Jean Urquhart: A few years ago, through the University of the Highlands and Islands, a couple of doctors conducted research over a three-year period into the health and wellbeing of older people in the Highlands and Islands, the net result of which has been positive in various communities. My understanding—I do not have evidence for this, but it is my belief—is that about 11 per cent of university research in that field is used by the Scottish Government. That leaves almost 90 per cent not being recognised, and I wonder whether the cabinet secretary feels that there is room to make more use of the experience of health boards of using research across the country.
Alex Neil: We make extensive use of medical professionals in our health boards and they are heavily involved in all the scientific work that we do. I can give one example relating to the science of informatics, which has been important in informing our policy on diabetes. As a result of the involvement of the health boards and their medics in informatics in looking at how we can better treat diabetes, Scotland has seen in recent years a 40 per cent reduction in amputation resulting from diabetes, and a substantial reduction in blindness resulting from diabetes. That is a direct result of the application of the science of informatics throughout the health service in Scotland, in co-operation with the CSO.