£9 million boost to tackle health inequalities across the region

the challenges of an ageing society
The scheme aims to support research to tackle a number of key areas including the challenges of an ageing society

Lancaster University is part of a pioneering collaboration between universities, NHS, local government and third sector partners, which will be at the forefront of a new government initiative to tackle health inequalities across the North West Coast. 

The population of the North West Coast faces stark health inequalities. Average life expectancy can vary across local authority areas by up to 12 years, and healthy life expectancies vary by over twenty years.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood has today announced £135 million in funding for 15 Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) across England which could transform the lives of millions of people living with a range of conditions, including dementia, mental ill health and obesity.

Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster University, said: “We’re delighted to play a significant role in the North West Coast ARC. The ARC gives us an additional opportunity to work with local communities and health and care systems to research issues that can really make a difference to the health and wellbeing of people. Lancaster University’s research strengths in public health and health inequalities, and the translation of findings into practice and policy will be particularly important in tackling some of the disparities in health there are in the region.”

The funding has been awarded through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for ground-breaking new projects that will address the increasing demands on the NHS and give patients greater independence and choice about how they manage their healthcare.

The Health Minister 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.”

Lancaster University will be a member of the Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC). 

Hosted by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (LCCG), it will bring together health and social care providers, NHS commissioners, local authorities, universities, members of the public, third sector partners, the Innovation Agency (Academic Health Science Network or AHSN) and others to address disparities in the health of the region.

Lancaster University’s Professor Jennie Popay, Director of Engagement NIHR CLAHRC NW Coast, said: “We are delighted to be a partner in this exciting initiative, working with local authorities, the NHS and community partners to improve health in the NW coast area. In particular, it will allow Lancaster staff to build on the innovative work we have been doing with people living and working in neighbourhoods experiencing both socio-economic and health inequalities.” 

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.”

Mark Gabbay, a Liverpool GP and Professor of General Practice at The University of Liverpool, has been appointed as the Director of ARC NWC.

He said: The scheme aims to support research to tackle a number of key areas of need highlighted by the NIHR Futures of Health report, including: the need to increase research in public health, social care and primary care; the challenges of an ageing society; multimorbidity; and managing the increasing demands placed on our health and care system.”

The new scheme includes an additional £15 million to support significant cross ARC collaborations on NHS priorities, with the goal of delivering a step change in national-level impact.

ARCs have evolved from previous research investment in regional research bodies called CLAHRCs, which have established infrastructure, connections and novel methodologies to use research in tackling major challenges facing local health services. ARC will be an evolution of CLAHRCs and focus on implementation to ensure a beneficial impact on both patients and communities.

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