Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 24

Referring to the article on the concentration of medical research, by all means let us see centres of excellence spread throughout the country (feature, pages 32-33, 1 April) - but not at the expense of losing world-class centres already well established in the UK. It takes many years to create centres of excellence: it is doubtful whether companies such as GlaxoSmithKline would invest in multi-million-pound developments at the likes of Hammersmith Hospital if funds were diverted elsewhere.

It is the location of clinical trials which can improve health outcomes, rather than research and development funding itself.

With the geographically distributed nature of clinical trials in the UK, and the increasing need for more interdisciplinary input from a critical mass of researchers, centres of excellence will continue to play an important role in delivering patient benefit.

Derek Smith Chief executive Hammersmith Hospitals trust Dr Charles Gutteridge Medical director Barts and the London trust At last someone has had a look at the distribution of national funds for research in the NHS.

Unfortunately the article is seriously flawed in describing the so-called 'golden triangle' of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Looking at the figures in the article, it can be seen that the total allocation to the Oxford and Cambridge research consortia combined (at least five separate trusts), is less than the top six amounts going to individual trusts in London. There is no golden triangle, rather there is a golden location: London.

Match this against the research output from Oxford (significantly higher than London) and the case for urgent geographical re-distribution, including to Oxford, becomes overwhelming.Not only does this distribution represent an inequity of resources allocation to the most productive research sites, it also subsidises the receiving hospitals. In the context of the pressure from payment by results and the national tariff, this cannot be right.

Let's have a level playing field.

Ed Macalister-Smith Chief executive Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre trust Some editing mistakes in my article on medical research may confuse readers. In table 1, the source of four of the five headings is not the Department of Health, as implied, but represents detective work and analysis on my part using obscure parts of relevant websites. In table 2, the figures given are 2003-04, not 2004-05 as stated.

Also, the published article did not cover a subject discussed in the original - the possibility of locating research institutes outside the golden triangle.

Relocation of some of these would have a significant effect in boosting research and development outside the triangle.

As a local example, as part of plans to develop Manchester University, research institutes are being developed for molecular imaging, neurosciences and nanotechnology. But the major funding bodies are required to give much more support and to locate more research institutes and teams there if it is ever to be in the same league as London, Oxford or Cambridge.

John Hacking Senior research officer Manchester University joint research unit