£9m boost to tackle health inequalities across the region

The University of Liverpool is part of a pioneering collaboration between NHS, local government, third sector partners and universities, which will be at the forefront of a new government initiative to tackle health inequalities across the North West Coast.

The population of the North West Coast faces stark health inequalities. Average life expectancy can vary across local authority areas by up to 12 years, and healthy life expectancies vary by over twenty years.

In response, funding from the National Institute for Health Research will be used to establish The Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC). Hosted by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (LCCG), it will bring together health and social care providers, NHS commissioners, local authorities, universities, public advisers, third sector partners, the Innovation Agency (Academic Health Science Network or AHSN) and others to address disparities in the health of the region.

The research funding will help to develop health solutions for the future, enable greater independence for patients about how they manage their healthcare and improve the health of communities.

The University of Liverpool and other universities within the collaboration will act as hubs for facilitating co-production, research innovation and implementation amongst the 50 partners already signed up. Co-produced research will take place and be implemented across South Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside. A Steering Board of senior management representatives from the collaboration’s partners and public advisers will oversee projects during the five year programme.

Mark Gabbay, a Liverpool GP and Professor of General Practice at the University of Liverpool, has been appointed as the Director of ARC NWC.

Professor Gabbay, said: “The scheme aims to support research to tackle a number of key areas of need highlighted by the NIHR Futures of Health report, including: the need to increase research in public health, social care and primary care; the challenges of an ageing society; multimorbidity; and managing the increasing demands placed on our health and care system.

“It will support the development, delivery and implementation of research into practice, enabling real and positive change for patients and the public, with an overarching focus on reducing health inequalities. We will ensure that our programmes are attuned to our partners’ priorities across the region and the needs of the varied communities they serve. We will examine existing evidence, identify areas of uncertainty and conflicting findings, undertake new research and evaluate implementation.

“Co-production’ is key to ARC NWC; projects will involve and in many cases be driven by partners and the public throughout the research life-cycle. This ensures research is relevant to local communities’ needs and shortens the delay between generating research findings and putting them into practice.”

A total of £135 million has been awarded to the 15 newly created regional Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) across the country. The new scheme includes an additional £15 million to support significant cross ARC collaborations on NHS priorities, with the goal of delivering a step change in national-level impact.

ARCs have evolved from previous research investment in regional research bodies called CLAHRCs, which have established infrastructure, connections and novel methodologies to use research in tackling major challenges facing local health services. ARC will be an evolution of CLAHRCs and focus on implementation to ensure a beneficial impact on both patients and communities.

Innovation Agency Chief Executive Dr Liz Mear, said: “The Innovation Agency, which is the AHSN for the North West Coast, is delighted to be a partner and ongoing supporter of the ARC NWC.

“The CLAHRC and the Innovation Agency have worked together on a number of programmes to improve healthcare across the region, especially in the area of stroke prevention and genomic testing. Our work together to address and improve population health will continue to be a shared theme for the future.”