University of Winchester benefits from £9m awarded to health research across the south of England

12 Jul 2019

Health researchers and health professionals across the Wessex region have been awarded £9m to work together to help solve some of the big health challenges in their communities.

The University of Winchester is among 15 institutions in Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight and South Wiltshire receiving funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to research problems such as ageing and dementia.

Researchers in four universities (Winchester, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Southampton), 11 NHS trusts, including Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and local authorities, will collaborate with doctors, nurses, health professionals and care staff to find practical solutions for patients and health and care systems. The funding for the Wessex Applied Research Collaboration (ARC Wessex) begins in October 2019 and lasts for five years.

"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."

The researchers will be working across four research areas:

  1. Ageing and dementia, including how best to extend support for people with frailty after they leave hospital, and how we can improve the diagnosis and care for people with dementia.

  2. Long-term conditions, including exploring 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.

  3. Healthy communities, including using interactive teaching in primary schools to help improve diet and combat obesity, and working with couples to help them overcome alcohol misuse.

  4. Health systems and workforce, including looking at how to 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.

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.

The region's 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 per cent Wessex, England 17 per cent), with the Isle of Wight (30 per cent) and Dorset (28 per cent) 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.

Professor Alison Richardson, a specialist in cancer and end of life care at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and University of Southampton, said: "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."

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. 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.

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