Update from the Chair of the APHCRI Research Advisory Board
APHCRI is funded until December 2015 by the Commonwealth Department of Health under the latest five-year phase of the PHCRED program. This phase has now ended and the program has been externally evaluated. I understand that the Department of Health is considering options for investment in future primary health care research as part of a Departmental wide approach to the support of research. Although the APHCRI contract ends this year a number of commissioned research projects (including Centres of Research Excellence) will not be complete until 2016/2017, and one will conclude in July 2018. The necessary funds have been set aside to meet these commitments and contingency plans are being put in place with APHCRI’s host, the Research School of Population Health (RSPH) at ANU to ensure that the remaining research contracts are appropriately monitored and final reports disseminated. These plans will come into effect should there be no renewed funding for APHCRI or a successor organisation with these functions.
The former in-house research program of APHCRI, known as APHCRI@ANU, has already been separated from the research commissioning/capacity building functions and incorporated into a new Health Services research stream in the RSPH.
Future of Primary Health Care Research Funding
APHCRI on behalf of the network and other stakeholders has developed and submitted a paper outlining views on the future of dedicated primary health care research funding.
The key messages are;
- Primary health care is a vital part of an integrated and sustainable health system
- Targeted priority driven primary health care research, firmly embedded with the key stakeholders groups, i.e. policymakers, consumers and service providers, is too important to leave to the lottery of mainstream academic research funding
- The model for delivering this targeted research and impact focused program should be based on inclusive governance and partnership arrangements between academics and the key stakeholder groups
We have valued the benefits and legacy of APCHRI to PHC Research, and recognise the potential for new models of PHC Research that support the implementation of research findings.
Implications for the remainder of 2015
We have a workplan agreed with the Department of Health for 2015. It includes the completion (or maintenance if contracts go beyond 2015) of all committed research projects and a reduced level of capacity building and implementation focused initiatives. It is a modest program that does not involve any further commissioning of research and no new commitments beyond 2015.
As a consequence, the staffing of APHCRI has been reduced to reflect the reduction in activity from previous years. The majority of remaining staff have reduced to part time, including the Head of APHCRI Programs, Terry Findlay.
Terry has recently been appointed Director at the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity (CPHCE) at UNSW on a part time basis. He has offered to maintain a part time role at APHCRI until the end of the APHCRI contract in December if required and if any potential issues of conflict of interest can be addressed.
In considering the options, ANU and the Research Advisory Board have assessed the impact on the organisation for the remainder of the year and the need to continue to advocate for research investment in the future and any actual or potential conflicts of interests. Consultation has taken place with the Department of Health and some key stakeholders. It is our view that on balance the benefits of Terry continuing in his role at APHCRI are significant and that any conflicts of interest can be managed effectively. It is important to note that APHCRI has no research funding decisions or new policy directions to consider in 2015. Alternative arrangements have been made to ensure that the management of the existing research contract with UNSW is dealt with independently of the Head of Programs position. This approach is supported by the Department of Health.
However we are aware that even with robust systems in place to manage actual conflict of interests should they arise, perceived conflicts of interest may still exist within APHCRI’s key stakeholder groups, including other CREs. The Research Advisory Board will continue to operate until the end of 2015 and will ensure independent advice on any matters associated with the research program.
It is our hope that there will be a positive decision about future investment in primary health care research and APHCRI will be able to contribute to the development and implementation of any new model before the end of the current contract in December. In the meantime we will keep you up to date on any developments as they occur and please do not hesitate to contact if you wish to discuss any of these matters.
Signed Deb Turnbull
25 June 2015