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Nine million pounds awarded to health research across Hampshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight and South Wiltshire.

11 July 2019

The National Institute for Health Research, sometimes called the research arm of the NHS, has awarded nine million pounds to create a new organisation called ARC Wessex.

ARCs – *Applied Research Collaborations – are teams of researchers working together to solve some of the big health issues in their communities. There are 15 In England and the Wessex region covers Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and South Wiltshire.

The team in Wessex is spread across four universities, NHS Trusts and local authorities, with doctors, nurses, health professionals and care staff working with academics to find practical solutions for patients and health and care systems. *Applied health research is research that seeks an answer to a question in the real world and to solve a problem.

Professor Alison Richardson, is the Director of ARC Wessex, based at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust & University of Southampton, where she specialises in cancer and end of life care. She believes this investment in research is vital: “We are enormously pleased to have been awarded this funding from the National Institute for Health Research. Our collaboration is focussed on some of the biggest health challenges facing communities across Wessex. Our research will bring together patients and the public, local health and care providers and universities to work together to produce and implement research to enable prevention of ill health, more effective treatment and care and better outcomes. It’s a very exciting time and we look forward to starting our programme of work in earnest in the autumn.”

Dr Phil Richardson is Lead Director Dorset ICS and NHS Dorset CCG “We are delighted that the ARC has been supported by NIHR. As a leading integrated care system we very much see ARC as a key delivery partner and a valuable member of Research Active Dorset.”

The ARC Wessex researchers will be working across four research areas:

1.    Ageing and dementia

2.    Long Term Conditions

3.    Healthy Communities

4.    Health Systems and Workforce.

All of which address some of the major health challenges facing our population of almost 3 million people.

Why these areas of research?

The research has been designed alongside the priorities for the NHS in the Wessex region and to compliment research carried out in other local research organisations.

We know that our ageing population faces a number of health issues from frailty to neurodegenerative conditions like dementia. Wessex has a higher than average number of people over 65 (23% Wessex, England 17%), with the Isle of Wight (30%) and Dorset (28%) having the highest numbers. In addition to that there are many people living longer with what are called long term health conditions like, arthritis, lung conditions (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – often caused by smoking) and type-2 diabetes.

Our NHS and social care systems are under tremendous pressure and helping people to avoid disease and to stay healthy is another priority. That is why we are looking at how to build healthy communities, prevent illness and help social care and health systems to design health and social care support now and into the future.

Here are some examples of the planned applied research to be undertaken in the first two years of ARC Wessex.

Ageing and dementia: our research will include how best to extend support for people with frailty after they leave hospital; how we can improve the diagnosis and care for people with dementia.

Healthy Communities: Using interactive teaching in primary schools to help improve diet and combat obesity, and in a separate project, working with couples to help them overcome alcohol misuse.

Long term conditions: Examining ways to reduce the burden of treatment on people with a long term illness, and trying out online support for patients to stay well in the community and reduce emergency hospital admissions.

Health systems and workforce: Will look at how we can support emergency departments to manage and predict high demand using modelling, and also devise and test new ways to coordinate multiple appointments for patients to reduce the burden on them.
In addition to putting health research to a practical use in our communities, the funding will also help support a number of NHS, social care staff and academics to study and improve their skills by conducting research. This in effect builds on the number of people in the region who can carry out research and find solutions to the health problems we face now and in the future. This explains why we are working with the four universities in the region (Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester and Bournemouth) and with the 11 NHS trusts, among other organisations like local councils.
It's already known that NHS trusts that carry out research have better health outcomes for their patients.

The public will play an important part in the research carried out by ARC Wessex. Central to each research team will be two lead public/patient members who will help develop research projects and advise on how to explain the work without using jargon. These eight public/patient team members will also join a host of supporters and advisors who will review and scrutinise the development and progress of health research projects.

To summarise the ARC Wessex’ mission is to: “Improve health and well-being of people of Wessex: targeting quality, safety, effectiveness and efficiency by undertaking and supporting implementation of leading-edge applied health research for patient, community and population benefit.”

It will focus on:

 ·        Better health results

·         Better ways of working

·         More people doing better research

·         Better public and community involvement

·         Research findings that influence everyday healthcare quickly

Quotes from partners:

Professor Sherria Hoskins, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Portsmouth, said: "This is substantial funding that represents our growing strength in health research and has been secured as part of a team effort both from within the University of Portsmouth and across the region. We are extremely excited at the prospect of working with excellent teams from the Universities of Bournemouth, Winchester and Southampton and colleagues at the National Institute for Health Research as part of this Wessex Research Collaboration. It is particularly exciting because the focus is on applied research in some key areas of challenge in health for our nation, for example dementia and diabetes. With £9 million to contribute to research over the next five years we believe that we can have a significant real world impact."

Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Bournemouth University: “Bournemouth University (BU) is delighted to be part of the Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) working with our colleagues to deliver high quality health and care research that is relevant to the Wessex community and has a high impact. The ARC places the focus on community and public involvement in research, matching BU’s strength for bringing together research, education and professional practice through Fusion.”

Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition, Bournemouth University: “Our ageing and dementia research at Bournemouth University uses collective expertise to improve the lives of older people with long-term conditions including dementia, and their families across the community. The Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) will enhance working with our NHS partners to accelerate our innovative person-centred research to address the complex health challenges of our ageing population across Wessex and demonstrate impact and benefit for older citizens and the health and care they receive.”

“Our growing population is placing an unprecedented demand on our healthcare services. It is, therefore, more important than ever that researchers work together to discover and deliver the most effective healthcare processes, strategies and techniques,” said Professor Simon Jobson, Dean-Designate of the University of Winchester’s new Faculty of Health and Wellbeing.

“As we prepare to launch our new Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Winchester is well-placed to join NIHR ARC Wessex in our collective mission to achieve this.”

Applied Research Collaboration for Wessex has been awarded funding for five years with work starting 1 October 2019. The NIHR is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems.

Patient and public involvement is vital to the success of the CLAHRC.

We would be pleased to hear from you if you are interested in becoming involved in our research and implementation.

How can I get involved?