Prestigious £2.5m NIHR Research Award to evaluate health and social care interventions

Prestigious £2.5m NIHR Research Award to evaluate health and social care interventions

A collaboration between the University of Aberdeen and Queen's University Belfast, led by Professor Miriam Brazzelli, has been awarded £2.5 million to become one of the new National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Evidence Synthesis Groups.

This investment of more than £22 million across nine Groups in the UK will support evaluations of which remedies and procedures bring the greatest benefit for patients, and which are ineffective and should be avoided.

Professor Brazzelli and Professor Mike Clarke from Queen’s University Belfast recently established the Aberdeen Belfast Evidence Collaboration (ABEC) which brings together experts in health and social care research from their two universities and will host the Evidence Synthesis Group.

The funding from the NIHR will allow the researchers to evaluate services and treatments across a broad range of clinical conditions and social care issues including, for example, mental health and dementia to help people live more independent healthier lives.

Professor Brazzelli, lead of the Knowledge Synthesis Programme at the University of Aberdeen Health Services Research Unit (HSRU) said: “This is an exciting opportunity. Evidence synthesis methodology is crucial for good decision-making in health and social care. It guides choices about treatments and interventions.

“It works by rigorous evaluation of competing remedies and procedures to optimise benefits for patients. The output of this work programme will contribute to enhancing people’s health and wellbeing across the UK by addressing relevant, pending healthcare issues and social care needs.

“I am delighted to lead the Aberdeen Belfast Evidence Collaboration, which is based on principles of excellence, efficiency and inclusivity. Our interdisciplinary team involves skilled researchers as well as topic experts, patient partners and service users.”

Professor Clarke, Director of the Northern Ireland Methodology Hub at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Reliable evidence is vital to well-informed decisions about health and social care. In many cases, this might be available from research studies that have already been done. Evidence synthesis allows this evidence to be brought together, making the best use of existing research, avoiding waste and providing much-needed answers for policymakers, practitioners, patients and the public in months, not years.”

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, Head of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen, added: “This award recognises the talent within the Evidence Synthesis Programme in Aberdeen led by Professor Brazzelli and provides an opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues in Belfast to identify effective treatments for patients across a number of different clinical areas.”

Professor Lesley Stewart, Programme Director for NIHR’s Evidence Synthesis Programme, said: “The groups provide breadth and depth of ‘on tap’ expertise in evidence synthesis that will enable the Evidence Synthesis Programme to respond quickly and efficiently to important health and care topics raised by stakeholders across the four nations of the UK.”

The NIHR Evidence Synthesis Programme will provide ABEC with £2.5 million funding over a period of five years to deliver a range of evidence synthesis products for the immediate use of the Department of Health and Social Care and of stakeholders, policymakers and audiences across the UK. The breadth of the programme will also allow the critical appraisal of research methods, identification of research gaps and prioritisation of studies to fill these gaps.