Northern health and life science leaders unite call on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to tackle funding gap in health research

Northern leaders urge Prime Minister to prioritise the addressing of the regional health research funding gap

4th March 2024

Twenty-three of the North’s leaders in health and life sciences, led by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to address   significant regional inequalities in health research funding.

The NHSA’s analysis of funding for health research published this week shows in 2022 the North received £405 million for research funding, compared to the £1.69 billion awarded to London, Oxford and Cambridge.

A letter sent to the Prime Minister has called on him to urgently increase investment in health research across the North.

The analysis shows:

  • The funding discrepancy per-person is significant, with the Greater South East receiving over two and a half times more per person than in the North – £68.58 compared to £25.72, respectively.
  • In the North, Greater Manchester was awarded the most direct funding at £42.10 per person – however this was still significantly less than London at £102.37 per person and Cambridgeshire at £337.85 per person
  • Since the last figures were published in 2018, the North has received an increase of £81 million, while the South received an increase of £200 million.
  • At the current rate of change, the total North-South funding allocation per head would not be the same until 2082.
  • Collectively, the northern Combined Authorities were awarded £48,934,215 infrastructure funding. There are individual buildings in London and Cambridge that received more investment than the entire North.

The analysis includes recommendations for UK government, combined authorities and national funders to redress the balance.

The letter is as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are calling on you to urgently increase investment in health research across the North of England.  

Funding for health research in the Greater South East is more than two and a half times higher per person than that in the North.

In 2022 the North received £405 million for research funding, compared to the £1.69 Billion awarded to London, Oxford and Cambridge. The continued lack of investment is stifling economic growth in the UK and widening the North-South health divide.

Poor health accounts for one-third of the productivity gap between the North and the rest of the UK, at a cost of £13.2bn a year. Analysis by the Northern Health Science Alliance shows that increasingly centralised investment in the South East is having a detrimental impact on health and the economy across the North.

We have world-class universities, excellence and scale in NHS research capabilities and proven partnerships with industry.

Levelling up the economy in health research and innovation should be based on the mantra that “if it can be done in the North then it should be done in the North”.

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Dr Séamus O’Neill, Chief Executive, Northern Health Science Alliance Ltd
  2. Professor David Burn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University
  3. David Black, Medical Director (Development), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  4. Dr Christine Cornforth, Director of Partnerships & Programmes Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, The University of Liverpool.
  5. Professor St John Crean, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)
  6. Professor Paul Hatton, Professor of Biomaterials Science, Faculty Director for Research & Innovation, University of Sheffield
  7. Professor John Issacs, Director of Research & Consultant Rheumatologist, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH)
  8. Professor Terry Jones, Head & Neck Surgery; Director of Liverpool Head & Neck Centre; Director of Research & Innovation for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS FT.
  9. Professor Mark Kearney, British Heart Foundation Chair of Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds.
  10. Professor Anne-Maree Keenan, Deputy Director, Leeds Biomedical Research Centre, University of Leeds
  11. Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor, The University of Liverpool
  12. Professor Graham Lord, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester
  13. Dr Kath McKay, Chief Scientific Officer, Bruntwood SciTech
  14. Professor Vikki Rand, Head of Biosciences Research; Director of the National Horizons Centre, Teesside University
  15. Professor Ihtesham Rehman, Professor of Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine; Head of Translational Research, University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)
  16. Dr Anthony Rowbottom, Deputy Director of Research and Innovation, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS FT
  17. Professor Matthias Ruth, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, University of York
  18. Professor Mark Strong, Dean of the School of Medicine and Population Health, The University of Sheffield
  19. Dr Ai Lyn Tan, Director of Research & Innovation, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS FT
  20. Professor Sir John Tooke, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, Academic Health Solutions
  21. Professor Phil Wood, Chief Executive, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust
  22. Professor Karen Bloor, Professor of Health Economics and Policy, University of York
  23. Professor Charlotte L. Clarke, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Science & Health at Durham University

Dr Séamus O’Neill, Chief Executive of the NHSA, said: “The collective voice of leaders in our sector shows just how pressing this issue is, and the impact this inequity is having on our regions.

“A wealth of evidence shows that people in the North experience adverse health outcomes compared to their southern counterparts, therefore we feel there is no justification for such a shocking gap in funding. I sincerely hope the Prime Minister takes notice of the seriousness of this issue and we look forward to hearing the Government’s response to our analysis.”

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