State-of-the-art health research centre opens

What has been billed as ‘one of the most exciting academic initiatives in the world’ has opened its doors.

The new £3.1m Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research has opened its doors

A partnership between Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Universities of Leeds and Bradford has led to the development of the £3.1m Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research at the Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) site.

Officially opened today (10 October) by some of the Trust’s oldest and youngest patients, currently taking part in research studies, the Centre will improve health across the generations, from children to the elderly.

By combining the expertise of health researchers with doctors and nurses, the Centre will ensure its findings are put rapidly into practice – resulting in better health, education and social care for those who need it most. The centre will also help connect academics with charities and other organisations.

The project has been made possible thanks to a £1m award from the Wolfson Foundation, which gives grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science, medicine, the arts and humanities, education and health and disability, together with £2m from the Universities of Leeds and Bradford.

Inside the new Wolfson Centre

The new building hosts the Centre for Applied Education Research, a Department for Education-funded initiative. Its work around child health will include the ground-breaking Born in Bradford and Born in Bradford’s Better Start cohorts. The building also houses the Centre for Ageing, one of the UK’s most successful research groups in applied health research for older people, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) National Patient Safety Centre.

Key priorities 

The Wolfson Centre’s three themes have been identified as key health priorities for Yorkshire – healthy childhood, healthy ageing and high quality and safe care.

Professor Mark Mon Williams, the University of Leeds’ Academic Lead for the Wolfson Centre

Professor Mark Mon Williams, the University of Leeds’ Academic Lead for the Wolfson Centre, said: “This is one of the most exciting academic initiatives in the world.

“It is a great privilege to be part of a project that will create new and exciting opportunities for our researchers to contribute towards improving the physical and mental health of our communities.

“The ultimate goal of the Wolfson is to bring together researchers from across the region, encompassing a wide range of disciplines, in order to improve health outcomes for everyone.”

Big health challenges

Professor John Wright, Director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) at the Foundation Trust, said: “The opening of the new Wolfson Centre builds on our reputation as a City of Research, working closely with the people of Bradford to understand and tackle the big health challenges of the 21st Century.

“The UK faces rising levels of obesity, diabetes and mental ill-health. These have complex causes that have no simple cures. We will work with our communities, Bradford Council and some of the leading academics to show how health research can change a city.”

Research projects 

Academics from Leeds are involved in numerous research projects through the work of the Centre.

This includes the Healthy Childhood theme, where researchers are driving change across systems and cultures to promote greater consistency and integration between health, education and community service providers to facilitate access and improve delivery of preventive health interventions. An example of this is the Glasses in Classes project, which aims to get glasses to four and five-year olds who need them in order to improve their maths and reading skills.

On the Healthy Ageing theme, researchers are involved in work on the highly commended Electronic Frailty Index (eFI) developed by Professor Andrew Clegg and his team in the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences (LIHS). The eFI has now been included in the NHS Long Term Plan and has been written into the General Medical Services contract to routinely identify people with frailty.

This development demonstrates the impact of the Healthy Ageing team on influencing the next 10 years of health service provision. The team has also been awarded a new NIHR Programme Development Grant to develop a novel system of care targeting risk factors for five manifestations of frailty, to maintain the independence of older people in hospital and post-discharge.

The High Quality and Safe Care theme also involves Leeds researchers, who are developing innovative ideas to address patient safety problems. Their work includes a focus on the problem of misplaced nasogastric tubes (e.g. when patients are accidentally fed into the lungs instead of the stomach) and development of a Patient Experience Toolkit, to support NHS trusts to engage in patient experience-based improvement projects. Researchers are also heavily involved in sharing their work.

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