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Sep
14
2016

New Investment in NHS Research Infrastructure shows Mental Health research is gaining traction
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On Wednesday the Government announced the next five years of funding for NIHR’s 20 Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs). These are collaborations between universities and NHS trusts that provide facilities and support for medical research, and in particular experimental medicine. What is exciting is the prominence that Mental Health is now getting. The funding awards are based on what research centres put forward . In other words it represents a snap shot of the topics that Universities and research active NHS trusts think are their strongest areas of research or where the most interesting questions are for science leading to patient benefit.

Six collaborations of the 20 include mental health as one of their themes. This is an increase from the two (out of 11) previous BRCs. As important there is a new BRC in Oxford that will concentrate on mental health research, complementing the existing centre based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) in London that has received increased funding. The spreading of the investment to different centres, which have different specialities and interests, is as welcome as the overall increase in funding.

Of course this is only part of the mental health research puzzle. NIHR is only one funder, and the BRC’s one mechanism for supporting research infrastructure. There is much more that needs to be done to get us close to where we need to be in terms of funding, infrastructure and research methods given the scale of issues people with mental health problems face. Next year the Department of Health will publish a 10 year strategy for Mental Health Research that will hopefully provide an opportunity to move the debate on what needs funding further forward.

We will continue to push for service user involvement in setting research priorities, and for lived experience to be at the heart of research. We do this in part because, as I blogged about in July, the existing BRC at IoPPN has demonstrated through their engagement work that the priorities that service users have for research are different from the ones academics develop. These are often as much, if not more, about the social and psychological aspects of mental health problems and treatments as the biological. It is surely right that NHS funded research has as a focus the issues that will make the most difference to the lives of the people who use it.

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