Lancaster universities join new £16m health project

Brian Webster Henderson.
Brian Webster Henderson.
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Experts in the region are leading a national project to address health inequalities in the country and the prevention of poor health.

A new government £16 million health improvement programme in North Cumbria and the North East has been awarded to a collaboration which includes the University of Cumbria and Lancaster University.

The NIHR has announced its funding for Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) to tackle key issues facing our health and social care system, including increasing demands on services due to an ageing population and aspects linked to austerity.

A collaboration between universities, the NHS, local authorities, voluntary organisations, charities and businesses will tackle issues causing health and care inequalities in the region.

These will include developing ideas which will try to give children the best start in life and which help keep people healthier at home for longer.

It is the first time that the North East and North Cumbria has received this funding.

It will be used to support researchers, practitioners and members of the public who will work together to improve health and also shape how care is delivered.

Themes will focus on aspects such as prevention of poor health, staying healthy with long-term conditions, supporting children and families, integrating health and social care for physical and mental health difficulties, inequalities across communities, using new technology and information to improve lives.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, pro vice chancellor (health) at University of Cumbria, said: “The University of Cumbria is delighted to be a partner of this significant applied research collaboration.

“We will play a key role in contributing to a growing research agenda that we see as having significant impact on the health and lives of our population here in Cumbria and this will be a key focus within our new Institute of Health.”

The regional collaboration, involving 56 organisations across North Cumbria and the North East, is being led by Professor Eileen Kaner of Newcastle University.

She said: “We are excited about receiving this funding because of the new opportunities it will bring to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the area.

“Our region has challenges due to its geography and there are more health problems that need to be addressed than other parts of the country. Therefore, it is apt that we have been asked by the NIHR to take a national lead on prevention and also on health inequalities.

“The ARC funding allows researchers to focus on the biggest health and social issues in our area and develop real solutions that reflect the needs and views of people living here.

“Much of the work will focus on the lives of people in the community rather than in hospital, especially people with common long-term physical and mental health problems.”

The ARCs vision for the North East and North Cumbria is to achieve ‘better, fairer health and care at all ages and in all places’.

The core funding provided by the NIHR is £9 million for five years, however, regional partners have contributed an additional £7 million.

The ARC will allow the development of a new team of 23 junior and 11 senior trainee researchers working across universities, healthcare and social care to improve the quality of life for people in the region.

There will be 15 ARCs across England, each aiming to improve the lives of people in their region, together they will tackle some of the biggest health issues facing the country. The government is giving a total of £135 million to the ARCs.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care.

“The UK has a proud history of cutting edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future.”