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Wessex Mental Health Research Hub gets £875,000 to boost research into mental health

NIHR ARC Wessex is to build a new Mental Health Research Hub at the centre of its research programme following an award from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The Mental Health Research Initiative application was pulled together by a team led by ARC Wessex Director Professor Alison Richardson and Professor Sam Chamberlain, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Southampton, and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, based at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

In August the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the NIHR announced a new £30 million Mental Health Research Initiative which included a series of funding opportunities to help tackle the disparity between regional needs and mental health research activity.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for DHSC and NIHR's Chief Executive Officer, said: "Mental health affects people across the UK and is a key priority for DHSC and the NIHR. As well as being high quality, our research must be delivered to areas that need it the most.

"This positive initiative will help to tackle geographical disparities by basing studies in parts of the country with a high level of mental health problems, which have traditionally seen little research activity.”

The ARC Wessex Mental Health Research Hub will increase the amount of high-quality mental health research carried out in areas where we know mental health needs are greatest. It will work with organisations involved in care and the public to ensure new research is at the heart of mental health care in Wessex.

ARC Wessex Director Professor Alison Richardson said: “This is such welcome news. Working with our partners it will help us bring about a step change in mental health research across Wessex.

The award will be used to build our capacity and capability to undertake applied health research and address some of the most pressing needs of the Wessex population and includes growing a network of public contributors with a specific interest in mental health research. A Mental Health Research Hub will be launched to connect those involved in research in this field with those who plan and deliver services. ARC Wessex is really looking forward to establishing this new programme of work.”

Professor Sam Chamberlain, Consultant Psychiatrist for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Southampton: "I am delighted that ARC Wessex is establishing this new Mental Health Research Hub. The Wessex region has important mental health needs, including in areas such as: alcohol/substance use disorders, problem gambling, depression, anxiety, neurodevelopmental conditions, and workforce well-being.

The Hub will bring together researchers from different disciplines and partners throughout the region to plan and conduct research and look at ways to implement findings at the point of care. It will also encourage and support new research talent through mentorship, internships, a summer school, and new post-doctoral positions."

This Research is designed to identify ways of improving the provision of Mental Health Services to those who have need of their support both within the NHS and within Local Government Social Care.

Antony Austin is a public contributor to ARC Wessex and is a member of the Partnership Board: “It is an exciting opportunity for the Mental Health Research Hub to focus on the improvement of mental health services which for so long have been underserved.

We also need to be able to bring social care, mental health services and other support together if we are to make sure people get continuous and high-quality support for their mental health needs.

People already fall through gaps in the system as they transition between child and adult services for example. This research will look at ways to create a health and care system that equates mental and physical health. It will help to highlight where the system can work better and will involve those people it is there to support.”

The Hub will add expertise to the existing ARC Wessex research themes which include Ageing and Dementia, Healthy Communities, Long-Term Conditions and Workforce and Health Systems.

The successful application for the £750,000 grant for mental health research came about through consultation and the involvement of many organisations and members of the public – our stakeholders. These stakeholders emphasised the need to target high demand for services and support at key points across the lifespan, especially in children and younger people, and older people. They also highlighted hotspots with specific local needs in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset.

Professor Shanaya Rathod is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Mental Health Clinical Lead for the Wessex Clinical Research Network: “This award and the establishment of the Mental Health Research Hub in Wessex is very welcome news. By boosting our capacity to carry out important mental health research we can provide innovation in our services with our service users and deal with the lack of parity that exists in mental and physical health in our deprived communities.

Good mental health is an essential part of people’s lives and when people experience difficulties, we must be able to support them, their family, and carers. By making this Hub central to the research themes of ARC Wessex we recognise that it is a vital part of the overall picture of applied health research. The award will help to build on the research skills and capacity that exist in mental health care and take them to a new level.”

Wessex has more older people than the national average, for example Isle of Wight population has a quarter of residents older than 65 compared to the national average of 17%. It also has high rates of multi-morbidity, people with multiple health conditions. Our mainland cities, coastal and rural towns and cities have significant areas of socioeconomic deprivation at least nine areas being the most deprived 10% nationally. The Hubs’ research will target populations and areas linked to higher needs for mental health support and services.

Jane Ward is a Patient Research Ambassador at Portsmouth Hospital. Jane helped with the development of the Mental Health Hub grant application: “This research is going to make a huge difference for people living with mental health care needs in our region. I’m particularly excited about the plans to expand the Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement to ensure that their experience and needs inform the project at all stages.”

More than 45 organisations supported the application for the Mental Health Research Hub including the bodies overseeing the NHS in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset ICS – Integrated Care Systems), Mental Health NHS Trusts, Universities, voluntary organisations and public contributors.


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