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Health Minister To Open Arthritis Research Campaign National Primary Care Centre At Keele

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, KBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, has visited Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, to unveil a plaque to mark the official opening of a major new centre promoting research in primary care that has been created with funding of £2.5m over five years from a leading arthritis charity.

The Arthritis Research Campaign National Primary Care Centre at Keele will have a direct benefit on the thousands of people in the UK who suffer from painful joint and muscle problems.

Painful conditions of the bones, muscles and joints, such as back pain and osteoarthritis, have a big impact on the health of the whole population. These musculoskeletal conditions are

•the commonest cause of disability in developed countries such as Britain
•a major reason for loss of time from work and long-term invalidity
•the single most costly area of personal expenditure on health
•the largest group of long-term or recurrent illnesses for which people seek help from GPs, physiotherapists, osteopaths, and other health professionals who provide frontline health care in the UK.

The Centre is dedicated to changing this picture and its challenges are

•to prevent musculoskeletal conditions from starting, getting worse or limiting people in their daily lives, and

•to support the provision of effective treatment and help for these conditions in primary care and the community.

The Centre aims to provide evidence from scientific research on how best to meet these challenges. The Centre’s programme of research is a joint venture between the University and partners from local NHS organisations. They are committed to

•researching the causes, consequences, prevention and best treatment of common painful conditions of the bones, muscles and joints
•involving the public, patients, carers and health professionals in the development and delivery of this programme

•teaching and training researchers from a wide range of clinical and non-clinical backgrounds in order to increase the quality and quantity of practical research into common bone, muscle and joint problems

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, KBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, said: “’High Quality Care for all' placed improving Quality at the heart of our plans for the future of the NHS. The academic primary care centre at Keele University will integrate cutting edge research and innovation in Arthritis Care provision and is an excellent example of this in practice.”

Director of the new centre, Professor Peter Croft, said he hoped that it would have a considerable impact on the way people with conditions such as back pain and osteoarthritis are treated and increase the status of primary care research.

“We are delighted that Lord Darzi has agreed to open this new centre of excellence for Primary care,” said Professor Croft. “Until recently, research in primary care has been very much a second class citizen receiving only a fraction of the funding that hospitals can attract. Our new centre will give a strong message that primary care is vitally important and that a major national charity values research in that setting. Lord Darzi’s report this year on the National Health Service highlighted the need for the NHS to value results that are important to patients – less pain, improved sense of wellbeing and being satisfied with the care they have received. These are precisely the outcomes which the Arthritis Research Campaign wants the new centre to study and our research programme is geared to finding out how to achieve these for patients with conditions such as back pain and osteoarthritis”

Chief executive of the Arthritis Research Campaign Fergus Logan said: “We have established the new centre at Keele because primary carers such as GPs, physiotherapists, nurses and podiatrists see by far the largest number of people who have arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and under the new Department of Health policies will be required to see and treat even more. Yet as things stand less than one third of people with osteoarthritis are receiving appropriate treatment. Clearly there is a major task to be performed not only to develop clinically proven best practice but also to encourage its use. We expect our new centre at Keele to play a huge part in fulfilling this aim.”

Keele University is unusual among British universities in having placed primary care at the top of its research priorities for many years. Since the 1990s, Keele has also focused much of its research on musculoskeletal conditions. As a consequence arc has already funded numerous research projects to the tune of several millions of pounds over the years and the research group built up by Professor Croft is world leading in the field.

Keele’s reputation has been built on a strong partnership with the local health community. The general practices, primary care trusts and hospitals in Stoke on Trent, North Staffordshire and Cheshire have provided strong and enthusiastic support, and many local patients have taken part in clinical trials and studies.

A unique element of Keele’s research success is the support it receives from the local population. Thousands of people have completed surveys, attended research sessions or been interviewed about their musculoskeletal problems and the effect they have had on their lives. An important component of the Keele research programme is that patients and members of the public have also become involved in helping to shape and develop and run the research itself.

The new centre will not only investigate the most effective treatments for people with musculoskeletal conditions but also test new ways of delivering these treatments in everyday clinical practice, so making a real difference to the lives of patients.

One of its top priority areas will be to tackle the problem of ensuring that people with arthritis can maintain exercise regimes over time in order to reduce their pain and maintain their ability to do everyday activities.

Other priorities will be to reduce the depression in older osteoarthritis sufferers which is related to the chronic pain, and to treat back pain more effectively. Research carried out at Keele and funded by arc has shown that simple measures such as exercise and physiotherapy can dramatically improve the symptoms of arthritis. But getting this evidence into the real world and into everyday practice, with the agreement and support of patients and clinicians, is difficult when other health concerns compete for their time and attention. This is the challenge that the new centre has been funded to meet.

Professor Dame Janet Finch, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, said: "Keele is strongly committed to pursuing a twin-track approach to research: developing the highest quality of research expertise, but also putting it to use to improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens. This new centre provides a marvellous opportunity to use research to help improve the lives of people who have chronic musculoskeletal conditions, in conjunction with the Arthritis Research Campaign."

Chris Stone | alfa
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