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Newcastle University to lead national network to advance stroke research


Specialists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have been chosen to co-ordinate a multi-million pound nationwide network of healthcare professionals to increase the amount of research being carried out into stroke – the third most common cause of death in the UK after heart disease and cancer.

Newcastle University has been chosen by the Department of Health to co-ordinate the UK Stroke Research Network, in collaboration with the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Nottingham and Oxford, under its UK Clinical Research Network (UKCRN) initiative. The network will comprise a National Co-ordinating Centre, based in the University, and eight local research networks around the country. The Department of Health is investing £20 million over five years in the project.

The aim of the UK Stroke Research Network is to establish a world-class research network which will facilitate the conduct of randomised prospective trials and studies, including for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of stroke.

The Network will meet the challenges facing UK stroke research, including responding to organisational and staffing changes in the NHS; facilitating greater expenditure on stroke research; increasing the number of multi-centre stroke rehabilitation trials and the number of trials which link directly to primary care; encouraging greater collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry; and improving links between the stroke research and clinical care communities.

One of the major elements of the network will be to increase the opportunities available for patients to become involved in clinical trials stroke research.

Newcastle University Professor and Consultant Stroke Physician at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, Gary Ford, is the Director of the National Stroke Research Centre. He said: ’Stroke accounts for over 10 per cent of deaths in the UK, and four to six per cent of the total NHS budget.

’Every five minutes, someone in the UK has a stroke, but only a fraction of stroke patients – fewer than one per cent – enter trials. The Network offers a major opportunity to increase the participation of patients and their carers in research and to expand the number of stroke trials to develop advances in the treatment of stroke patients from prevention through acute care and improving outcomes of rehabilitation.

’Advances in treatments developed in clinical trials of stroke will reduce the current unacceptably high death rate from stroke and long term disability with its heavy burden on stroke patients and their families’, he added.

Dr Helen Rodgers, a specialist in stroke medicine at Newcastle University, who is Director of Patient Care within the UK Stroke Research Network, said: ’Stroke is devastating to patients and their families and carers, and expensive for society. The majority of people survive their first stroke, but they are often left with considerable physical and psychological impairments.

’We aim to work with the local research networks to help them provide opportunities for more people to become involved in stroke research, in order to improve stroke prevention, the quality of treatment and care, rehabilitation and long-term support for stroke patients’.

Newcastle University was chosen to co-ordinate the UK Stroke Research Network because of its already strong programme of stroke research, coupled with extensive expertise in managing clinical research. Professor Ford is also Director of the University’s recently-opened £4.5 million Clinical Research Facility.

Professor Sally Davies, Director of Research and Development at the Department of Health said: ’The UK Stroke Research Network will provide a world-class health service infrastructure to support clinical research and speed up patients’ access to the best treatment and care in all parts of the country.’

Dr Joanne Knight, Director of Research and Development at The Stroke Association said: ’The establishment of the Network is an exciting development for people affected by stroke. It will allow more stroke patients to participate in high quality research studies across the UK. This will increase and accelerate the development of new treatments to benefit the 150,000 people that have a stroke in the UK each year. The Stroke Association is looking forward to working closely with the network to ensure that the best possible patient benefit is derived from stroke service improvements based on good research.’

Melanie Reed | alfa
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