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NIHR research schools are national collaborations between leading academic centres that fund outstanding research in primary care, public health and social care. 

Exeter excellence in primary care research recognised through NIHR research school membership

Excellence in primary care research at the University of Exeter has been recognised, through membership of a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) collaboration designed to strengthen parts of the NHS.

The University of Exeter Collaboration for Academic Primary Care (APEx) joins eight other universities that excel in research into the first point of care in the NHS, as part of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR). Together, they aim to strengthen the sector, which encompasses general practice, community nursing, community pharmacies, and dental and optometry practices.

NIHR research schools are national collaborations between leading academic centres that fund outstanding research in primary care, public health and social care. The nine member institutions share their expertise with non-member institutions, with a strong emphasis on engaging, collaborating and partnering with institutions beyond the school membership.

APEx Director John Campbell, of the University of Exeter, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity, and great recognition of the efforts of many individual researchers and research groups over recent years. At Exeter, we have built expertise in primary care-focussed research, addressing the organisation and delivery of primary care as well as relevant health policy.  Our research is clinically-focussed, and covers important areas such as cancer diagnosis, assessment and management of high blood pressure, and mental health conditions in primary care settings. This important recognition further cements Exeter’s established reputation for delivering high-quality primary care research.”

The new phase of the school, which has been awarded £22 million, will start in April 2021 and run for a five year period. The school has also received funding of £10 million from the NIHR Academy to support capacity building in primary care research.

Professor Clive Ballard, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health, said “We’re delighted with the recognition achieved by Professor Campbell and colleagues as a result of APEx delivering such high-quality research. The university has invested substantially in supporting primary care research over many years and we look forward to continuing to strengthen the NHS in this important area of our activity.”

New SPCR director Professor Christian Mallen, NIHR Research Professor in General Practice and the Head of the School of Medicine at Keele University, said: "I’m absolutely delighted to have been appointed director of the NIHR School of Primary Care Research. The renewed membership provides a real opportunity to build on past success whilst extending our remit to work with a broader group of partners.”

The core research priorities for the refreshed SPCR are organised around some of the challenges facing national and international primary care. They are organised into four broad themes:

  • Changing patterns of morbidity and mortality
  • Challenges around new technologies
  • Workforce and skill mix in primary care
  • Globalisation, health and inequalities

The renewed SPCR will continue to conduct research that responds to and meets the needs of local populations and local health and care systems, and which addresses the nation’s changing demographics and corresponding impact on disease burdens and service demands.

The nine SPCR member institutions from April 2021 are:

  • Queen Mary University of London
  • University of Bristol
  • University College London (UCL)
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Keele
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton

Date: 24 March 2021

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