£135 Million Research Fund Announcement Marked By Visit To NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North Thames By Health Minister

Government announces £135 million investment in applied health research to equip NHS, public health and social care for the future

The funding will tackle the biggest challenges the health and care system faces over the next five years

Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, visits ARC North Thames on the day of the announcement

ARC researchers, staff and patient partners welcomed Baroness Blackwood (centre) to the launch at Barts Health NHS Trust


The NHS is joining forces with some of the country’s best universities, leading innovators and local authorities to solve some of the biggest issues facing health and social care over the next five years.

From October 1st NIHR ARC North Thames (alongside fourteen regional partnerships across England) has been awarded funding through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for ground-breaking new research that will address the increasing demands on the NHS, public health and social care, improve outcomes and services and reduce inequalities.

NIHR ARC North Thames is a partnership of six leading universities (UCL, QMUL, LSE, LSHTM, City and UEL), the NHS and councils (across Central and East London, Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire), patients, communities, charities and industry. All share a commitment to improve health and social care services and to reduce inequalities.

We focus on five Themes: mental health, multimorbidity, population health and social care, innovation and implementation, health economics and data.

We have studies planned in areas where we can achieve significant advances in tackling major health and care challenges– from reducing urgent care admissions to improving management of frailty; developing and evaluating pathways linking primary, secondary, and social care; addressing fairness and quality in provision of mental health services for all ages; developing the potential of diverse data for examining variations in outcomes; and providing tools to drive implementation across diverse settings.

We will examine persistent problems (such as child health inequalities, impacts of multiple disadvantage, pollution, polypharmacy and sustainable social care) and emerging issues (such as gambling, knife crime and built infrastructure for sustainability).

We have also been designated as the national ARC lead for population health.


We will train frontline NHS and Public Health staff in applied research skills. This will support them to use the highest quality research in their work for patient and public benefit. We will also enable them to develop into research leaders, widening our network of experts, thus ensuring that future research is grounded in health and care settings and in communities, so meeting their most pressing practical needs.

Public and Community Involvement

We have highly valued public partners who keep our work relevant and where necessary challenge our priorities, ideas and proposed research. Our aim is to deliver research in communities with communities and for communities.

We welcomed Baroness Blackwood to the national ARC launch at our host Trust Barts Health’s Royal London Hospital where the Minster met ARC academics and staff.

NIHR ARC North Thames Director Professor Rosalind Raine (pictured, centre with the Minister) said:

“The key to achieving the Holy Grail of delivering world-leading research and rapid impact is to work hand in glove with our partners. We are designed to be agile enough to tackle major emerging issues that come from the ground up, from frontline staff, patients and the public.  So our results will be of direct value and can be readily spread across the country in partnership with our AHSN, UCLPartners.

We are also passionate about reducing inequalities. We must achieve benefits for all those in our region, which encompasses a range of neighbourhoods including the third most deprived in England. We also serve ethnically diverse and highly mobile communities. By closely collaborating with ARCs across the country, we will ensure that our research is truly relevant to different social and demographic groups whether they live in urban or rural settings”.

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.”


Identifying local innovation and research needs

Clinical leaders across the UK and our region share their priorities

It is important that research and innovation focuses on the most important questions and challenges if it is to have the best impact on patients, the health and social care workforce and the NHS. Different areas of the country have different population profiles and consequently different health needs and service delivery challenges.

What we are doing

Alongside our colleagues at UCLPartners – the academic health science network (or AHSN) for North Thames – we are working with a range of stakeholders in our region to define local innovation and research needs.

This work is informed by a national survey commissioned by the AHSN Network, NHS England and our funder the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which aimed to provide a detailed understanding of innovation and research needs at local level across all academic health science networks (AHSNs).

National findings

The national survey, conducted by the independent research agency ComRes and published in May 2019 collected the views of health stakeholders, including clinical leaders, managers and directors. Carried out between June and October 2018, the survey involved qualitative interviews with 61 people and a questionnaire which received more than 250 responses.

While there were some differences in regional priorities, common themes emerged which reflected wider challenges facing the NHS and align with the priorities of the NHS Long Term Plan.

These include:

  • a need for innovation and research addressing workforce challenges
  • delivery of mental health services and providing care for patients with mental health needs, particularly in children and young people
  • integrating services to provide effective care for patients with complex needs – including multimorbidity and frailty
  • use of digital and artificial intelligence technology

Local findings – the picture in North Thames

Many of the national findings were reflected in the interviews and questionnaires carried out with stakeholders in the UCLPartners region (although the sample size at local level means these can only be considered indicative findings).

Our local stakeholders interviewed as part of the survey viewed workforce issues and use of digital technology and AI as high priorities, but also viewed primary care as a priority. Mental illness and multimorbidity were also viewed as priority areas.

Of a number of specific patient groups put to them, national stakeholders chose people with mental health conditions, older people and socially isolated people as the top three priorities for research and innovation (62%, 50% and 46%). UCLPartners stakeholders also viewed the first two groups as priorities, but were more likely to view children and young people and those from low income backgrounds as a priority than older people.

Next steps

Our colleagues at UCLPartners will be facilitating further regional discussions, involving a range of local stakeholders, to refine the priorities identified. The findings from these discussions will inform a statement of local innovation and research needs.

Breaking down the barriers to research

What is preventing research with children and young people (CYP) with life-limiting conditions and life-threatening illnesses (LLC/LTI)?

Barriers to Research Access: Voices, Experiences and Solutions, or BRAVES is a programme of research aiming to explore the barriers to conducting research and some possible solutions

The team recently presented two posters at the 17th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC)



The first gives an overview of the whole project

This poster was recognised as 1 of 3 best/highest scoring poster abstracts in the Palliative care in Children and Adolescents category



The second focuses on work with research ethics committees who provide approval for work to take place with this vulnerable group of patients

Introduction to Evaluation – Thursday 19th September 2019

Do you need to demonstrate the impact of projects in your organisation?

Do you want to improve the design and implementation of your programme?

Are you tasked with carrying out an evaluation, but don’t know where to start?

This one day, hands-on workshop, run by the NIHR CLAHRC NorthThames Academy, addresses these challenges.  It is aimed at staff from NHS Trusts, CCGs and Local Authorities, who have limited experience of conducting service evaluations.

After attending this workshop, you will have the skills and knowledge to undertake your own evaluation of a local programme or service.

The course covers:

  • Different types of evaluation, including their pros and cons
  • How to select suitable methods and approaches for evaluating a local programme or service
  • Practical skills and tips in using evaluation methods and approaches
  • Ways of sharing your evaluation findings to make an impact

This workshop is suitable for staff from NHS Trusts, Local Authorities and CCGs.  It is not aimed at academics and/or researchers.  Participants should attend the course with an evaluation in mind that they may need to carry out.  No previous experience of study design, statistics or evaluation is needed.

All participants will receive a certificate of attendance.

Cost – This course is free for staff working in NIHR CLAHRC North Thames partner organisations (please click here to see a list of our partners). There is adelegate fee of £250 for other attendees.

Registration – Please complete the registration form and email to clahrc.academy@ucl.ac.uk by 5pm, Friday 12th July 2019.

Please note, a cancellation fee of £100 will be charged to both partner and non-partner delegates in the event of non-attendance without notice after 5pm, Thursday 12th September 2019

Acting Early to improve childrens health

The life chances and wellbeing of young people are shaped by factors well beyond their immediate home and family life. The communities and neighbourhoods we grow up in play a big part in our development and health, and the quality of life we enjoy – or endure.


ActEarly is a major study launched this month. It will see researchers working with communities to build the “big picture” of factors impacting children’s health. This work is funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) – an alliance of research funders committed to supporting research into the primary prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

ActEarly will investigate what external factors influence our health and wellbeing so we can act early to better support healthy childhoods.

The ultimate aim is to improve the life chances of children in two predominantly deprived areas in the UK, Bradford (Yorkshire) and Tower Hamlets (London) focusing on three main areas –  healthy places, healthy learning and healthy livelihoods.

Professor John Wright, who will be leading the study gives the background to this research and what it aims to achieve in a new blog

£25 million funding awarded to leading disease prevention projects

Back to listing 9 May 2019 In its first ever funding round, the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) is investing £25 million into understanding and influencing the social, economic and environmental factors that affect our health.

How can we help Emergency Departments better prepare for the arrival of patients with acute mental health problems?

New CLAHRC research offers the NHS a great opportunity to better support patients with mental health issues arriving at Emergency Departments.

CLAHRC researcher Dr Helen Barratt and colleagues have used NHS data to describe the population of patients who attend Emergency Departments in England, including their sociodemographic characteristics. As part of the first national study of Emergency Department mental health attendances, the researchers analysed over 6 million adult visits at 97 English NHS Trusts between April 2013 and March 2014.

The data will be invaluable to the NHS in estimating the demand for liaison psychiatry services, and resourcing A & E departments to deal with patients presenting with mental health issues in what is already a stressful environment. This work is timely as recently new NHS Access standards for emergency mental health care have been proposed – obliging Trusts to strengthen the availability of care ‘out of hours’ and the provision of resources for individuals requiring admission.

“Those coming to A&E will receive a response from a 24/7 liaison psychiatry team (or equivalent children’s and young people’s service) within the first hour of their referral, and will receive the appropriate, timely support to meet their needs and an evidence-based package of care.”
Clinically-led Review of NHS Access Standards Interim Report from the NHS National Medical Director

You can see the key figures in the infographic below


You can see more of the key figures in a presentation Helen put together below



What adaptations are needed to deliver psychological therapies in inpatient settings?

Psychological therapies (sometimes referred to as ‘talking therapies’) offer a chance for patients to explore difficulties in a safe and confidential setting. The therapy is delivered by a qualified professional, working in partnership with a patient to help them better understand feelings that arise from their past experiences, and attitudes towards them. Evidence suggests these therapies can make a big impact on psychiatric patients current and future wellbeing. However, they are a challenge to deliver in inpatient environments due to the short-term nature of many inpatients’ stay, added to the complex needs they often present with.

Dr Lisa Wood is a Care Pathway Lead Psychologist at North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) as well as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Essex. Dr Wood spent a year with the CLAHRC as part of a Fellowship funded by HEE NCEL to hone her research skills and develop research interests in her specialist area – understanding the lived experience of psychosis from a service user perspective.

In newly published research, Lisa explored the adaptations required to deliver psychological therapies to this population from the perspective of inpatient psychological practitioners. Through interviews with inpatient psychological practitioners, Dr Wood and her research team sought the adaptations required to deliver psychological interventions in this context.

Read the paper

Qual Health Res. 2019 Apr 23:1049732319843499. doi: 10.1177/1049732319843499
Psychologists’ Perspectives on the implementation of Psychological Therapy for Psychosis in the Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Setting.
Wood L Williams C Billings J Johnson S


After the trial: how a programme to improve the health care response to domestic violence and abuse fares in the real-world NHS

How does an intervention developed and tested by researchers make its way to the front-line of health care?

This is the topic of a new blog by Dr Natalia Lewis, a Research Fellow at Centre for Academic Primary Care in the University of Bristol.

Natalia is part of the research team investigating the impact of IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety), a general-practice-based Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) training, support and referral programme.

After the trial: how a programme to improve the health care response to domestic violence and abuse fares in the real-world NHS