£9million boost to South West health research

A partnership that carries out health research in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, with direct benefits to patients’ health and NHS care delivery, has secured a further £9m in funding for the next five years.

The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC), which includes the University of Plymouth, was established as one of the first nine CLAHRCs in the country in 2008. 

Since 2008 NIHR PenCLAHRC has conducted and supported projects which have had a significant impact on patient care and the way in which services are delivered – including interventions to reduce inequalities in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

And now the collaboration has secured further NIHR funding. 

A central part of the way the collaboration works is to conduct research based on questions from people directly affected by the issues under investigation: doctors, nurses, therapists and, importantly, patients.

An area of strength in which NIHR PenCLAHRC took a national lead is the meaningful involvement of patients and the public in research. Patients and members of the public take an active role in research, helping to set the research agenda, working with researchers to design and conduct studies and helping to make sure that the results get used in practice. This Patient Public Involvement (PPI) activity will continue to be a key component of the team’s activities over the next five years.

Project highlights from across the region include:

  • Enabling the implementation of a cheap, easily available drug which is delivered by paramedics to reduce the risk of death from haemorrhage after trauma.
  • Developing an intervention to reduce obesity in school children.
  • Creating partnerships to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
  • Risk assessment tools to help GPs identify and quantify a patient’s risk of cancer based on their symptoms.
  • Plotting ‘care pathways’ to ensure that victims of stroke receive a drug vital to a fuller recovery within an effective timescale.

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.”

In 2018 the NIHR launched a new competition to designate and fund NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (NIHR ARCs), a new approach to the NIHR CLAHRCs of previous years. PenCLAHRC submitted its application to the NIHR to secure designation and funding for five years in autumn 2018, and was pleased to learn of its success. 

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, said: 

“From dementia support to asthma interventions, PenCLAHRC has enabled researchers to have a significant impact on prevalent patient issues. It is fantastic to hear that funding has been secured and I look forward to seeing how further research can help even more people in the future.” 

Professor Richard Byng, Deputy Director of NIHR PenCLAHRC and Professor in Primary Care Research at the University of Plymouth’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), said: 

“Our designation as an NIHR Applied Research Collaboration will mean that we can continue to work in partnership with service users, members of the public, clinicians and NHS and social care organisations to develop some of the most critical areas of care including dementia, frailty, public health and mental health. Our high quality research evidence has led to changes in treatments, services and health promotion and has contributed to improving the quality and duration of peoples’ lives. We are absolutely thrilled that we can continue with this important research.”

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.

“The 15 new NIHR Applied Research Collaborations will ensure that we grow applied health and care research in every region in England. The additional funding announced today means we will ensure that our world-leading research is turned into real benefits for patients and ensure the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations work together to have national-level impact.”

Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed)

Bringing together scientists, clinicians and expertise from across the spectrum of scientific discovery, medical research and health technology.

Home to the University of Plymouth’s world-class biomedical, clinical and applied health research.

Find out more about ITSMed and our research

NIHR PenARC

NIHR ARC South West Peninsula (also known as PenARC) is the National Institute of Health Research's (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South West Peninsula, and is a partnership between the Universities of Plymouth, University of Exeter and NHS and Local Authority organisations across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. PenARC was first established as a CLAHRC in 2008 and is now part of a national network of 15 NIHR-funded ARCs.

The partnership supports and funds research with direct impact on patients’ health and the way in which NHS care is delivered, conducting research based on questions from those directly affected: doctors, nurses, therapists and, importantly, patients. The partnership has been highly successful in utilising match funding to access support for our research projects from other sources and external partners.