Lancaster in £3.4m health data initiative to address major health challenges in the region

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Health Data Research (HDR) UK has announced a £3.4m innovative data initiative in the North of England that will benefit patients across the UK and help address some of the most challenging health issues facing patients and the NHS.

The Better Care North Partnership (HDR UK North) initiative aims to improve the care and services for patients by supporting the better use of data and analytical tools and includes projects that aim to benefit some of the most vulnerable patient groups who are at greatest risk of COVID-19.

The initiative is supported by a £1.2m investment from HDR UK and £2.2m from the partner institutions.

Lancaster University Professor Louise Heathwaite (PVC Research and Enterprise) and Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone (Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine) said: “The Faculty of Medicine and the Data Science Institute are proud partners in this new Health Data Research UK collaboration to transform and improve health and care delivery using routinely collected data and to deploy new interventions nationally. 

"Professor Jo Knight will be an Associate Director for this project co-leading the Health Data Science Cross Cutting theme. Professor Nancy Preston is involved in the Patients, Public and Practitioner Involvement and Engagement cross cutting theme.”

Growing impact of an ageing population

One of the major challenges for the partnership is addressing the issue of frailty, an area of unmet clinical and social care need that affects 10% of people aged over 65, rising to 25-50% of people aged over 85 years. This accounts for £15 billion of expenditure in the UK and is likely to have a growing impact due to the ageing UK population.  

The partnership will initially focus on improving monitoring of residents in care homes to detect deterioration, reducing the burden of use of anticholinergic medicines, and optimising prescribing of antibiotics, thereby reducing the potential for antimicrobial resistance.

15 organisations from across the North are involved in this partnership which will be co-ordinated by a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool led by Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed.

In addition to The Better Care North Partnership, HDR is also establishing another health data research partnership in the south-west of England, co-ordinated by the University of Bristol. Both will form part of HDR UK’s network of research sites and hubs, which bring together world-class research and innovation expertise, a track record in using health data to derive new knowledge and scientific discovery and enable the responsible use of data to speed up benefits to patients and the population.

Multidisciplinary world-leading expertise

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed of the University of Liverpool, said: “This partnership brings together world-class Universities, digitally enabled NHS institutions and academic health science systems. The is underpinned by multidisciplinary world-leading expertise in population-based learning health systems research and a history of collaborative working, to address major challenges in frailty, an area of unmet medical and social care need.

“We serve over 16 million people in the North where the rates of poverty, morbidity, premature mortality and poorer clinical outcomes are higher than in other regions. As our population gets older, frailty and more widely, multimorbidity, exert huge system pressures.

“This partnership will help us to use all available data and advanced analytical techniques to gain actionable insights for optimising delivery of care for those who need it most.”


Professor Simon Ball, Medical Director at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Research Director at Health Data Research UK, said: “As healthcare professionals we make hundreds of decisions a week with our patients. In doing so we aim to decide what will work best for each individual. Electronic healthcare records offer the opportunity to combine patients’ data with information on best practice, so that we can reliably deliver high quality care in complex settings and pressured environments. Beyond that we can use the resulting data on patients’ outcomes and experience, to continuously learn from, and improve on, everyday practice in ways that are applicable across the NHS.”

The following organisations are members of The Better Care North Partnership; Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Lancaster University, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Leeds, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts, Newcastle University, Salford Royal Foundation Trust, University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System and Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The partners will also be working closely with the four Northern Academic Health Science Networks and researchers at Durham University to deliver this project.

The Northern Health Science Alliance, an alliance of 24 universities, NHS trusts and Academic Health Science Networks across the North of England, supported the bid through project management across a broad coalition of partners and in engagement with the NHS.

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