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£9 million boost for health research in the west country

11 July 2019

Health researchers in the west country have been given a £9 million award from the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to enable them to tackle the area’s most pressing health problems. 

Asian woman and white older man smiling and chatting at a community cafe

The funding will enable new research projects, including forecasting demand in hospitals, increasing people's physical activity levels, supporting people who self-harm and improving outcomes for children in care.

The investment, awarded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) which is funded by DHSC, will help develop better health and care through research that aims to address the immediate issues facing the health and social care system.

The money is part of a larger £135 million award over five years to 15 pioneering research teams across the country, known as NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs). 

Professor Chris Whitty, NIHR Lead and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: 

"The unique local collective approach at each NIHR Applied Research Collaboration will support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local patients, and local health and care systems. The network will also be able to tackle health priorities at a national level.”

These ARC teams build on the success of the NIHR Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs), which the ARCs replace from 1 October 2019. The team in the west, NIHR CLAHRC West, has a strong track record of producing impactful research with a range of collaborators. This has included applied health research projects with the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol.

The CLAHRC West team has worked on diverse projects including evaluating patient safety tools and the roll out of an intervention to reduce cerebral palsy in premature babies with the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), exploring the experiences of Somali families affected by autism, creating harm reduction materials with people who inject drugs with the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol and improving how healthcare professionals respond to signs of domestic violence and abuse with the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol.

ARC West, will be hosted by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) and brings together universities, local authorities, NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups, voluntary sector and community organisations, alongside patients and members of the public, to focus on improving health and care for local people.

John Macleod, Director of ARC West and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said:

"This funding will help us work with our partners for better, more equitable, appropriate and sustainable health and care across the West, and is testament to the strength of our local collaborations. Securing the ARC West funding has been a real team effort, and it's been an honour to work with the people who have made our bid a success. I would like to thank everyone involved in the process. 

"I also want to pay tribute to the CLAHRC West team, who have worked so hard over the last five years to build our reputation for impactful applied research. I want to especially recognise the efforts of Professor Jenny Donovan in leading our first successful CLAHRC bid and then directing CLAHRC West. I am looking forward to building on the strong foundations that she and the rest of the team have laid."

Robert Woolley, Chief Executive of UH Bristol and part of the successful bid team, said:

"Research is the lifeblood of our trust and wider health and care system. The work my colleagues will undertake in ARC West is vital and necessary. It will change how we deliver care and public health interventions.

"Applied research may not get the same attention as new cures or medical devices. But what it does is tell us how to do things better, or even stop doing certain things. The ARC West team will help its partners improve, from hospitals to mental health trusts, and voluntary sector organisations to local authorities. Congratulations to John and the team for this latest addition to the west's impressive research landscape." 

Matt Hickman, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology and co-Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol, said: “CLAHRC West has been instrumental in increasing research capacity in behavioural and qualitative science applied to health protection, and supporting excellent patient and public involvement in our research. We look forward to strengthening future collaborations with the ARC to ensure our research continues to have impact locally, nationally and internationally.”


Further information

About the NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol

The Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions, based in Population Health Sciences at the University of Bristol, is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and a partnership between University of Bristol and Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with University College London, Cambridge Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit and University of the West of England. We are a multidisciplinary team undertaking applied research on the development and evaluation of interventions to protect the public’s health. Our aim is to support PHE in delivering its objectives and functions. Our focus is on the PHE priority area of infection. Follow us on Twitter: @HPRU_EI 

About NIHR ARC West

The NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) co-produces better, more equitable, appropriate and sustainable health and care across the West. It does this through applied health research projects and implementing research evidence, regionally, nationally and internationally. Co-producing research with partner organisations and the people affected by the research is at its heart. To achieve this, its researchers work with health provider organisations, including local NHS and public health, the wider health and care sector including voluntary sector organisations, patients and the public, and other ARCs and academic groups.