£3million funding to help tackle region’s health inequalities

Wed 02 November, 2022
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The University of Bedfordshire has been awarded £3million by NHS England to develop a research and innovation hub in collaboration with the NHS BLMK (Bedfordshire, Luton & Milton Keynes) Health & Care Partnership, which will focus on ways to improve health and social care inequalities across the region.

The BLMK Integrated Care System (ICS) Research & Innovation Hub will see academics and researchers from the University’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) and Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR) join forces with local health and social care professionals to work on a number of targeted projects over the next three years to advance NHS processes, support services and service-user outcomes.

The Hub’s focus in the first year has been established under three priority ‘pillars’ – 1) inclusive workforce, 2) new ways of working and 3) safeguarding. Confirmed projects for each pillar include:

Inclusive Workforce Pillar

  • ‘Community Targeted Outreach Programme: Intervention and evaluation’ – overseen Dr Nasreen Ali & Martha Roberts
  • ‘Building resilience in the Caring Professions’ – overseen by Dr Lisa Bostock

New Ways of Working Pillar

  • ‘Ageing well: Frailty & Sarcopenia Screening and Intervention Study’ – overseen by Professor David Hewson and Nicky Poulain
  • ‘Primary care access: Improving access to primary care for older people, minority ethnic communities and disadvantaged communities across BLMK’ – overseen by Dr Erica Cook, Professor Gurch Randhawa, Dr Yannis Pappas and Dr Chirag Bakhai

Safeguarding Pillar

  • ‘Reducing harm from “street activities” through collaboration and dialogue’ – overseen by Dr Sarah Wadd, with additional funding from Luton Council for a mapping study

Dr Louise Grant, Executive Dean Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with NHS BLMK Health & Care Partnership on reducing health and social inequalities. Together I am sure we can make a significant contribution through our applied research interventions.”

Following the funding announcement, the launch of the BLMK ICS Research & Innovation Hub was celebrated with a special event held at the University’s Putteridge Bury campus where a number of health and social stakeholder organisations were in attendance.

Dr Yannis Pappas, Reader in Health Service Delivery & Organisation at the University of Bedfordshire, is the newly appointed Director of the ICS Research & Innovation Hub. He commented: “The BLMK ICS Research & Innovation Hub represents a unique opportunity to apply integrated care for the benefit of service-users and health and social care economies. The University of Bedfordshire is a centre of excellence in health service organisation and delivery, with particular strength in integrated care research, meaning we are ideally placed to oversee this new Hub.

“My University colleagues and I are delighted to be working with regional stakeholders and leading health and social care professionals to achieve the much needed improvements across systems and levels of care, especially with regard to health and social care inequalities.”

The Executive Team of the BLMK Integrated Care Board was keen to ensure that research and innovation were embedded within the ethos of their care systems and that work, particularly in the area of health inequalities, was coordinated and effective so that their NHS patients would receive the best, evidence-based care possible.

Dr Rima Makarem, Chair of BLMK Integrated Care Board, added: “This is a very exciting opportunity to drive research and innovation in integrated health and care, placing the population, individual patients and the workforce at the centre and forefront of our work. Our ambition is to become nationally recognised leaders in the development of evidence-based interventions that successfully tackle health inequalities in our communities.”

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