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Putting health records at the heart of UK medical research

Posted on 3 August 2012

The University of York is part of a new network of e-health research Centres of Excellence supported by a £19 million investment from a consortium of 10 UK government and charity funders, led by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced the funding for the four centres which will open in late 2012. They will harness the wealth of UK electronic health records to improve patient care and public health.

The e-health centres are the first of their kind and have the potential to revolutionise health research

David Willetts

York is a partner in the North of England research centre, based in Manchester, with the Universities of Manchester, Lancaster and Liverpool. The centres, in London, Dundee and Swansea as well as Manchester, will investigate a wide range of conditions that place a huge burden on the UK population, including diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and child and maternal health.

They will undertake cutting edge research that links e-health records with other forms of research and routinely collected data, which will lead to patient and public benefit and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of global medical research.

By combining clinical, social and research data, researchers aim to identify more effective treatments, improve drug safety, assess risks to public health and study the causes of diseases and disability.

Professor Trevor Sheldon and Professor Kate Pickett, of the Department of Health Sciences at York, said: “We are very excited to part of this world class collaboration which will make a powerful contribution to creating and improving the use of electronic health information so that we can better understand the causes of illness, and support ways of tackling health problem of patients and improving the health of the public. This will bring together a range of disciplines at York in Health Sciences, Health Economics and Computer Science.”

Public understanding of the importance of using health data for research is crucial to advancing drug discovery and improving patient care. The new centres will play an active role in engaging with the public to promote better understanding of the benefits of e-health records research. The centres will also act as a point of contact for industry, the NHS and policy makers.

A network will be formed to capitalise on the expertise in the centres, and to encourage wider collaborations among UK and international researchers to make sure there are effective links between different types of health and social data sets. The centres will also offer career development and training opportunities to increase the UK’s capacity and capability in research using health records.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “Thanks to the NHS and the UK’s world-leading research base, we are uniquely positioned to use patient data to study disease and develop better treatments. The e-health centres are the first of their kind and have the potential to revolutionise health research. They will provide a vital insight into conditions affecting millions of people and ultimately bring benefits for patients.”

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, added: ”This is a watershed moment for data research and for the Medical Research Council which I believe will deliver the benefits of e-health research, improving patient care over the coming years. The way in which the partner organisations have come together to invest in e-health underpins its importance and will help establish the UK as a world leader in this field.”

The members of the E-Health Research Initiative who have jointly-funded the four centres are: Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Government Health Directorates), the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Welsh Government) and the Wellcome Trust.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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