HOSPITALS, clinics and social welfare agencies will be given the chance to improve Hong Kong's health services through special funding of their own research projects. A $50 million one-off government grant will be used to fund projects which look into health care problems and new technology and treatments following yesterday's launch of the Health Services Research Fund. One of the ideas of the new fund is to give health care professionals the chance to carry out their own research and use the results to produce a better health care system for patients and staff. Professor Anthony Hedley, chairman of the grants sub-committee, said: ''The aim is to transform our traditional health service from a passive recipient of medical technology and procedures to one which is quite critical. ''Service and research will no longer be two separate activities but integrated in terms of health promotion, patient care and delivery of services.'' The initial aim is to fund a three-year programme of research with approved projects getting mini-grants of between $6,000 and $60,000 and bigger projects receiving up to $500,000. Special preference will be given to projects looking into health care financing, cost-effectiveness studies of health care plans, the public's use of health services and health promotion. Professor Hedley said: ''We are not simply concerned with medical treatment but with assessing the public's needs and looking into high-risk behaviour, lifestyles and health education.'' But Professor Hedley said the long-term future of research into Hong Kong's health services depended on the outcome of projects backed by the new fund. He added: ''After the three years we don't know what will happen but we hope the programme will be maintained to allow further research. ''We expect the results to be incorporated into health services and I think the benefits will be very clear and seen to be cost-effective.'' The closing date for the first batch of applications is May 2 this year.