The 2017-18 annual report of the research and development department went before last Thursday’s (January 24) meeting of the board of Northumbria Healthcare, which runs hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
It explained that research ‘is central to helping improve patient outcomes, reducing costs and increasing the productivity of the NHS’.
Last year was one of flux for Northumbria’s research department, with a major organisational restructure taking place from September 2017 to April 2018.
The report explained: ‘Had re-structuring not taken place a departmental budget deficit of £1.1million was forecast for 2018-19.
‘The current deficit estimate for this period is estimated at £161,000 (£300,000 including deficits carried from previous years).
‘Staff and non-staff costs have fallen by around 60 per cent from 2017-18 levels.’
It adds: ‘Going forward from 2019, we expect departmental finances to stabilise during 2019-20 with a steady reduction in the deficit each year.’
However, the department’s director, Richard Walker, used his presentation to the board to highlight the fascinating research being carried out by his team, emphasising that research-active trusts tend to attract more high-quality staff and there’s evidence that they provide a higher quality of care.
He added that the research is used to answer clinically-relevant problems, for example, a study into COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) led to a change in the national guidance.
Parkinson’s disease is the focus of another batch of studies by the Northumbria team, including ‘the only prevalence study in sub-Saharan Africa, which suggests that probably half of the world’s cases are not diagnosed’.
Meanwhile, the trust’s partnership with Synexus continues to be successful four years on.
When the Synexus North East Research Centre within Hexham General Hospital opened in 2014, it was the first partnership between a private company and the NHS in the realm of clinical research and it won an award for the best-performing Synexus site worldwide in 2017.
‘However, to date, one objective of a true collaborative research project has not been achieved,’ the report notes.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service