The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) aims to improve both the health and wealth of the UK by means of research, as Open Access Government’s Editor Jonathan Miles discovers
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the UK’s Department of Health and ultimately aims to improve both the health and wealth of the UK by means of research
The NIHR’s mission is essentially to provide a health research system, as we find out on their website, in which, “the NHS supports outstanding individuals working in world-class facilities, conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients and the public.” (1)
In summary, the NIHR:
- Funds high-quality research to better health;
- Supports and trains health researchers;
- Provides world-class facilities for research;
- Cooperates with charities and the life sciences industry to benefit all and;
- Involves both patients and the public every step of the way.
Going into more detail, the reason why NIHR funds health and care research is so that it translates into actual discoveries for practical products, devices treatments and procedures that concern both patients and the public.
NIHR ensures that the NHS can support the research of other funders to encourage wider investment in and economic growth from, health research. NIHR works with both the life sciences industry and charities to help patients gain access to breakthrough treatments as early as possible. In addition, NIHR both trains and develops researchers to ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of the international research scene.
According to the NIHR, the future of health and social care in the UK depends on the research of today. With perhaps the most integrated clinical research system in the world, the NIHR believes that the UK drives research from bench to bedside to ultimately benefit both patients and the wider economy.
Research Integrity Concordat
Something that underpins the organisation’s work is the Research Integrity Concordat. This specifically sets out commitments that provide assurances to the UK government, the wider public and the international community that research in the country is always underpinned by the highest standards of integrity and rigour.
Developed in collaboration with the funding and research councils, Wellcome Trust and various government departments, the concordat sets out to:
- Provide better coordination of existing approaches to research integrity;
- Enable more effective communication of efforts to ensure that the highest standards of rigour and integrity continue to underpin all NIHR’s research;
- Encourage greater transparency and accountability at both institutional and sector levels and;
- Stimulate reflection on current practices to identify where improvements can happen.
Recruiting patients for research
In recent news on the NIHR website, we discover that Stroke specialists at the North of Tyne’s hyperacute stroke research centre (HSRC), based at Newcastle’s RVI were recently commended as a leading specialist centre in stroke research, following a peer review led by experts from the NIHR. Newcastle was particularly noted for ‘its brilliant recruitment contributions’, having experienced the highest number of patients taking part in trial participation in the UK, and in a broader range of complex clinical trials than other centres.
Dr. Anand Dixit, the CRN NENC Specialty Lead for Stroke who works as a stroke specialist at the RVI says: “Typically these decisions are taken based on advanced brain imaging and can only be carried out in selected centres in the country such as here in Newcastle. We are currently delivering trials testing novel clot retrieval devices, drugs for the treatment of stroke and stem cell therapies following a stroke.”
Dr. Dixit, also says that Newcastle’s performance is due to the positive engagement of the whole clinical team in research participation. He then explains this interesting point in further detail: “We have a unique approach towards ensuring that every single member of our clinical team treating hyperacute stroke is research active. This means we do not miss an opportunity to offer pioneering interventions to all our patients. Our approach of clinical and research integration helps us to offer these interventions to a larger number of stroke patients giving them chance of maximum recovery.”
NIHR’s National Specialty Lead for Stroke, Professor Tom Robinson adds that The North of Tyne have performed exceptionally well, something he believes is a testament to both the enthusiasm of the research team and its leadership. “The engagement of clinical staff, and the strong support that the HSRC receives from the local Clinical Research Network (CRN) and the Trust. It is also important to note the North of Tyne’s HSRC’s contribution of academic studies to the HSRC portfolio as well, notably PASTA”, he underlines.
Many more excellent examples of the research that NIHR funds is available on their website, including the mental health of pregnant women and helping truck drivers get their health back on the road. Whatever the area of research is, there is no doubt that ultimately it improves the health and wealth of the UK in many positive ways.
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