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Messages from our departing director, Professor Alastair Gray and our new director, Professor Philip Clarke.

A message from our departing Director, Professor Alastair Gray

HERC DirectorsIn January 2019 I will be standing down as Director of HERC and handing over that role to Philip Clarke, who (re)joined us in August of this year. Philip will be taking a forward look on page two of this newsletter, so it falls to me to be more retrospective.

Prior to HERC’s formation, health economics was not completely absent in Oxford. Miranda Mugford was in the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, and Alistair McGuire and Paul Fenn were at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, then based in Wolfson College. But there was no focal point, and my good fortune was to get the support of Martin Vessey, head of the then Department of Public Health, in creating and hosting a new group, and of Muir Gray, then Director of Research and Development at Anglia and Oxford NHS Executive, who provided the pump-priming funding. In 1996 HERC got going, quickly recruited Nikos Maniadakis and Andy Briggs, and grew. By our 10th birthday we had grown to 18 staff, and now have over 40 staff and students.

I and the group have been very lucky to have had the unwavering support of four successive Heads of Department: Martin Vessey got us started, Ray Fitzpatrick successfully steered us through various reviews and reorganisations, Harold Jaffe gave our research a more international dimension, and now Rory Collins has integrated us physically and academically into the Nuffield Department of Population Health. We have also been fortunate in the excellent admin support our HERC office has unfailingly provided.

Above all, we could not have thrived without the efforts of all my colleagues, past and present. I have been very lucky to work with such a group of loyal and hard-working people, and with our associates and visitors, and our doctoral and MSc students. I’m also lucky to be handing over to Philip, and am completely confident that under his leadership the group will go from strength to strength. Meanwhile I look forward to working alongside Philip and continuing my research and teaching.


A message from our new Director, Professor Philip Clarke

HERC Group Away Day October 2018My involvement with HERC dates back almost two decades, having worked for six years in the Centre prior to taking up appointments at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. I have a diverse range of research interests, which focus not only on ways to improve health care and research efficiency, but also on ways to improve access to health care and thereby reduce health inequalities. I am also known for developing computer simulation models that can be used to inform health economic evaluations.

Under Alastair’s leadership, HERC has grown considerably over the last few years, not only in the number of researchers, but in the scope of work it undertakes. HERC has also benefited from being embedded within the Nuffield Department of Population Health and being co-located with the Big Data Institute. This, combined with HERC’s strong links across the University of Oxford and external collaborations, means that HERC has tremendous opportunities to access primary data from individual patients, which in turn informs and characterises much of its research.

While continuing to do what the centre does well (e.g. conducting economic evaluations alongside clinical trials), I believe HERC can build on its key strength in computer simulation modelling. Although HERC has developed models for diabetes and renal disease, these will need to be updated and extended, and we are looking for opportunities to develop new simulation models for other diseases to help inform economic evaluations world-wide.

I am also keen to collaborate closely with existing researchers within HERC and form collaborations to develop several new programmes of research, such as:

• Developing new statistics to routinely monitor health inequalities both within and across countries;

• Finding cost-effective ways to reduce health inequalities;

• Conducting economic research on research i.e. finding ways to increase the efficiency of the allocation of research funding and improving the design of RCTs.

These new directions complement our existing research programme and will allow HERC to tackle new challenges in the coming years.