£775m health research funding 'to benefit NHS patients'

Published on Monday, 07 March 2011 09:08
Posted by Scott Buckler

The government has announced funding worth £775m for research that ministers say will directly benefit NHS patients


The cash will be spent over the next five years on projects that improve results in priority areas, such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.

One example is a computer programme that uses brain scans to detect early signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the funding will help ensure the UK remains a centre of scientific excellence.

"A strong science and research base is crucial to help secure sustainable economic growth, helping to rebalance the economy and create the jobs of the future, which is why despite tough spending decisions we have protected its funding," he said.

"We have some of the best scientists and facilities in the world and today's announcement will help ensure we continue to be at the cutting edge of life sciences."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the fund was a key aspect of the government's growth strategy, and formed part of a much bigger investment in research and development worth £4bn.

Brain scans

The money will be reserved for projects described as "translational research" - defined as those which will directly benefit patients.

One such example is the advanced computer programme to spot the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, which has just gone on trial at memory clinics being run in south London by the Maudsley Hospital.

It compares a brain scan to 1,200 existing images of brains already damaged by Alzheimer's and can deliver a diagnosis that is 85% accurate within 24 hours.

Early detection of the disease has previously been hard to achieve, but Professor Rob Howard, an old age psychiatrist at the Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the Maudsley Hospital says people will now have a chance to know what is wrong with them sooner.

"The earlier we make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, the more able we are to intervene when we have treatments that are likely to work and affect the course of the disease.

"But also the earlier we are able to give our patients either reassuring news that they don't have dementia, or we're able to confirm they do have the diagnosis so they can make the appropriate plans to put their lives in order and seek the help that may be available.

"The important thing about the development we've reported is that it's available as a clinical service. We're talking about something that is done in the clinic routinely and the results are made available to clinicians within a few hours of the patient having had a scan."

Long and painful road

Bruce Bovill and his wife Jan Bruce Bovill and his wife Jan, who died last year

But some who have lived through the Alzheimer's nightmare are not entirely convinced.

Over a period of more than 20 years, Bruce Bovill saw his wife Jan gradually succumb to dementia - she died last year aged 69, at which point Bruce spoke to the BBC about his wife's long illness.

He says now that an early diagnosis is just the first step on what can be a long and painful road.

"I think any development towards sorting out things for somebody who has got dementia has to be good, it has to be of benefit to the person concerned.

"However it is only a first step because at the moment people have very little knowledge of what causes dementia, or how to treat it, and certainly no way of curing it."


Source: ©BBC News

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