Medical research in NHS Lothian benefits patients, staff and Scottish economy

A paper to be discussed at today's (Wed) Lothian NHS Board meeting sets out the board's continuing commitment to medical research and asks the board to consider even closer working with the University of Edinburgh, its main academic research partner.

The paper asks the board to endorse a new research and development strategy mapping out NHS Lothian's priorities in this area up to 2010.

Dr Charles Swainson, Medical Director, NHS Lothian, said:

"NHS Lothian and our staff are proud to be playing our part in Scotland's proud record on biomedical research. We are full partners in the BioQuarter initiative at Little France, working with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise and Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc, and look forward to helping create a world-leading centre of clinical and academic excellence at the campus close to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Encouraging high quality research by clinical staff produces real benefits for patients - both from helping to develop new treatments and helping the professional development of clinical staff."

A strong reputation for research also makes NHS Lothian an attractive place to work, improving staff recruitment and retention.

The paper, available for download from NHS Lothian's website, summarises NHS Lothian's research strengths. Partnership with the University of Edinburgh -rated 14th in the world for biomedical research - earns NHS Lothian nearly £10m in research and development support funding, while £2.5m has been invested in work on the early phases of potential research projects. A further £600,000 has been recently awarded to NHS Lothian for a new programme in Health Services Research.

The new strategy 2007-2010 sets out a range of proposals to encourage a greater focus on the benefits of research. These include a suggestion that research and development funding should be ring-fenced, the time of researchers should be "protected", encourage doctors, nurses and other health professionals to conduct research, and facilitate the swift introduction of improvements to care identified by research.

The strategy also suggests closer collaboration between NHS Lothian and the University of Edinburgh College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine would lead to benefits for both organisations.

NHS Lothian research highlights

  • NHS Lothian staff are involved with over 1,000 active research studies and over 100 commercially-sponsored studies, most of which are clinical trials.
  • The Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at the Western General Hospital employs over 60 members of staff, has an annual budget of £1m and is complemented by a jointly-managed research facility at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. This facility is recognised as a model of good practice by the Academy of Medical Sciences. This centre is doing ground-breaking research on diabetes, ageing and the impact of smoking cessation work. The centre supported 263 separate clinical research studies in 2006-7, incorporating nearly 6,000 patient visits and generating 58 academic publications.
  • Formation of ACCORD. Accord is a "one stop shop" jointly developed with the University of Edinburgh to provide help to researchers.
  • Formation of the Edinburgh Clinical Trials Unit: this new unit should greatly improve and increase Edinburgh's ability to lead on international clinical trials.
  • New £18m Clinical Research Imaging Centre at the Royal Infirmary. This partnership with the University of Edinburgh will provide state of the art scanning facilities to help develop new techniques and support scanning of patients with cancer from across the South East of Scotland.
  • New Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre - partnership with the University of Edinburgh on a new multidisciplinary cancer study centre.
  • New Tommy's Research Centre- partnership with the Tommy's the Baby Charity, and the University of Edinburgh opening a new research centre on obesity and impacts on maternal and foetal health in spring 2008.
  • Translational Medicine Research - NHS Lothian is a partner in this collaboration with 4 universities, three other health boards, Scottish Enterprise and Wyeth, a top ten global pharmaceutical company
  • NHS Lothian also works closely with researchers from Napier, Queen Margaret and Strathclyde universities.