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New service to boost patient-focused research across the South

Published: 9 January 2009

University of Southampton has key role in new £5 million research support service for health and social care professionals.

From this month, health and social care professionals across the South will have access to a new specialist service to help them obtain crucial funding to develop patient-focused research, a key element in improving health and social care provision for patients in the NHS.

The new service is run by a team of researchers from four universities in the South, led by Mark Mullee and Helen Elsey of the Research and Development Support Unit (RDSU) at the University of Southampton’s School of Medicine.

In collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Oxford, Portsmouth and Reading, they will be running a Research Design Service (RDS) for all NHS health and social care researchers in the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SC SHA) area, on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The coordinating centre for the new NIHR Research Design Service South Central (RDS SC) will be based in the University of Southampton’s School of Medicine at Southampton General Hospital, with further sites in Oxford, Portsmouth and Reading.

“This collaboration across the universities brings together an impressive team of research advisors and senior methodologists with expertise in statistics, epidemiology, clinical trials, evaluations, qualitative approaches and health economics,” says centre director, Mark Mullee.

“Anyone from the NHS and its partners, including universities, who is developing bids for research funding is encouraged to access the free support in research design offered by this new RDS SC.”

A key part of the new service will be to advise and assist public involvement in research, and one of the first tasks will be to set up a network of public and patient groups interested in getting involved in research. The RDS SC will then help health and social care researchers to link up with members of the public to develop patient-focused research.

This is one of eight RDSs across England, tasked with providing  high-quality advice and support to health and social care researchers developing research funding proposals, within the new health research system as set out in the Government’s ‘Best Research for Best Health’ Research Strategy.

In particular, the RDSs will work to increase the number and proportion of high-quality applications for funding for applied research relating to people and patient-focused health and social care. The services will particularly benefit novice or less experienced researchers in developing strong bids.

Professor Sally C Davies, Director General of Research and Development at the Department of Health, said: “Each NIHR Research Design Service will perform an important role by providing expert advice to local researchers. With more Government funding available now than ever before through the NIHR, we want to encourage the development of high-quality research applications for the benefit of NHS patients.”

Mark Mullee adds: “Our vision is to deliver comprehensive expert research design support across the whole South Central region, through local advisors with access to the full range of available resources and expertise. This will enable us to help increase the volume and success rate of high-quality funding applications, particularly for research applications to NIHR funding streams.

The successful bid to run the RDS SC would not have been possible without the support of stakeholders including the host universities, South Central Strategic Health Authority and Trusts within the region.”

The RDS SC team has also been awarded a further £100,000 from the Strategic Health Authority to extend the range of assistance it can offer.

The new service begins operating in January 2009 with funding to the end of 2013. Local RDS units can be contacted at:

www.nihr-ccf.org.uk/site/programmes/rds/map/

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