£1.5 million for research to improve lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions

The Nuffield Foundation has awarded £1.5 million in research funding to The University of Manchester as part of a £4 million award to six research teams across five UK Universities to improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions by influencing policy and practice.

Musculoskeletal conditions – including arthritis and back pain – affect 18.8 million people in the UK and are the leading contributor to disability in the UK. One in five people in England consult a GP about a musculoskeletal condition every year, which accounted for the third largest area of NHS England programme spending at £4.7 billion in 2013-14.

Despite the huge number of people living with MSK conditions in the UK, there is a lack of evidence on how these conditions progress and their effect on people’s well-being and life chances. Together, the new, interdisciplinary research projects will address this by exploring the impacts of MSK conditions on different aspects of well-being. The research projects will create new datasets as well as exploiting existing data in new and innovative ways.

The research grants are the first to be awarded from the Nuffield Foundation’s dedicated £12.5 million fund for research into MSK conditions. The next call for applications will be launched later in 2020.

Led by Professor Will Dixon, the project is called ‘Assembling the data jigsaw’ in Greater Manchester. The award is for £1.5 million over four years.

He said: “There is currently no national system to record MSK diagnoses and progression in rheumatology departments. Our team will draw together data regarding diagnosis and treatment by GPs and rheumatologists in Greater Manchester, social care records, information collected from patients via touch screens in hospital waiting areas, and social media content.

“This innovative data linking will enable us to better understand how common MSK conditions are, how they progress, what treatments are best and who needs which services and when.”

It is one of two projects awarded funding in partnership with the charity Versus Arthritis, who have contributed £250,000 towards the grants.

It will link existing, and new, data in novel ways, to address key research questions and inform policy and practice:

Tim Gardam, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Foundation said: “The Nuffield Foundation is committed to improving people’s lives through better understanding of the issues affecting their life chances. Together these new projects will improve our understanding of the impact of MSK conditions on both individuals and wider society. We are delighted to be partnering with Versus Arthritis to help improve the health and well-being of people living with MSK conditions by influencing future practice, policy and research.”

Amanda Neylon Director of Insight Data and Technology at Versus Arthritis said: “This is exceptional research that will greatly improve our understanding of the effects of arthritis and improve the way people are treated. Meaningful data are key to providing high value musculoskeletal services as it’s essential for understanding the health needs of local populations, the activity performed by services and the outcomes they deliver.

“Our partnership with the Nuffield Foundation is an excellent example of how working with others can maximise the impact of research funding and allow us to achieve more than we could do on our own.”

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