New Centres put health records at the heart of UK medical research

3rd August, 2012

A consortium of 10 UK government and charity funders, led by the Medical Research Council (MRC), has made a historic £19 million investment to establish four e-health research Centres of Excellence in London, Manchester, Dundee and Swansea. The funding awards were announced today at the British Business Embassy\'s life sciences summit at Lancaster House by the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts. The Centres will open in late 2012 and will harness the wealth of UK electronic health records to improve patient care and public health.

The four Centres will investigate a wide range of conditions that place a huge burden on the UK population, including diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and child and maternal health.

Maximising the unique value of the NHS, the Centres will undertake cutting edge research that links e-health records with other forms of research and routinely collected data, which will lead to patient and public benefit and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of global medical research.

By combining clinical, social and research data, researchers aim to identify more effective treatments, improve drug safety, assess risks to public health and study the causes of diseases and disability.

The four Centres will make use of patient data sets available through the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a £60 million service recently announced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the National Institute for Health Research. The public and charitable funding for these Centres builds on this important commitment from the Government and on similar bodies that link patient records in Scotland and Wales.

Public understanding of the importance of using health data for research is crucial to advancing drug discovery and improving patient care. The new Centres will play an active role in engaging with the public to promote better understanding of the benefits of e-health records research. The Centres will also act as a vital point of contact for industry, the NHS and policy makers.

A network will be formed to capitalise on the expertise in the Centres, and to encourage wider collaborations among UK and international researchers to make sure there are effective links between different types of health and social data sets. The Centres will also offer career development and training opportunities to increase the UK\'s capacity and capability in research using health records.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "Thanks to the NHS and the UK\'s world-leading research base, we are uniquely positioned to use patient data to study disease and develop better treatments. The e-health centres are the first of their kind and have the potential to revolutionise health research. They will provide a vital insight into conditions affecting millions of people and ultimately bring benefits for patients."

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, says: "This is a watershed moment for data research and for the Medical Research Council which I believe will deliver the benefits of e-health research, improving patient care over the coming years. The way in which the partner organisations have come together to invest in e-health underpins its importance and will help establish the UK as a world leader in this field."

Professor Andrew Morris, Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Dundee and Chief Scientist at the Scottish Government Health Department said "Colleagues in Scotland are thrilled to be awarded Centre of Excellence status. This builds upon over 40 years experience of using electronic patient records not only to drive improvements in the quality of health care in Scotland, but also to innovate in the way we deliver clinical trials and discover the best treatment options for patients and communities. The spirit of collaboration between NHS Scotland and the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde has been tremendous. There is a great opportunity to make the United Kingdom the destination of choice of eHealth research, and in doing so help deliver the best quality health care to the people of Scotland."

The members of the E-Health Research Initiative who have jointly-funded the four Centres are: Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Government Health Directorates), the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Welsh Government) and the Wellcome Trust.

For media enquiries please contact the MRC Press Office on 0207 395 2345 or email

Notes to editors

For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century.

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. It is the UK\'s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the nation\'s heart charity, dedicated to saving lives through pioneering research, patient care, campaigning for change and by providing vital information. But we urgently need help. We rely on donations of time and money to continue our life-saving work. Because together we can beat heart disease. For more information visit

The Chief Scientist Office (CSO) is the part of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates which supports and promotes high quality research aimed at improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of services offered by NHSScotland and securing lasting improvements to the health of the people of Scotland. CSO supports research initiated by the research community in Scotland and advises the Scottish Government on how research contributes to improvements in health and healthcare. CSO\'s research strategy "Investing in Research: Improving Health" sets out key aims for 2010-14 including giving greater emphasis to funding experimental and translational medicine research and health services and health population research. CSO also aims to deliver value for money through partnerships with other funding agencies and to foster Scotland-wide working through NHS Research Scotland (NRS) and Health Science Scotland.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK\'s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC\'s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK\'s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone\'s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust\'s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded through the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government\'s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence, and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.


For media enquiries contact:
Roddy Isles
Head, Press Office
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
TEL: 01382 384910
MOBILE: 07800 581902
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