By Dave Baldwin
Fifteen years ago, Bradford NHS had just three researchers. Today, it has more than 200 based at the world-beating Bradford Institute for Health Research and working to improve the lives of people across the district. Bradford’s growing reputation for expertise in health research has helped win multi-million pound funding for a new centre for cutting-edge trials, including potential treatments for coronavirus.
The Bradford Patient Recruitment Centre, the only one to be set up in Yorkshire, will enable local patients to take part in late-phase clinical research funded by the life sciences industry and access new drugs for various chronic conditions before they become widely available within the NHS. The Bradford Institute for Health Research, founded in 2007 by the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is running the new centre.
Professor John Wright, director of research at the institute, said the funding announcement was the “culmination of a remarkable journey” in Bradford, which is already home to one of the largest research studies in the world, tracking the lives of 30,000 people born in the district between 2007 and 2010 to better understand the influences on health and wellbeing in families. Prof Wright said the Born in Bradford project will provide important biomedical evidence to the new centre.
“The new facility will be one of the top five centres for clinical trials in the UK,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “It will enable enduring relationships with leading global bioscience companies and ensure inward investment and support economic growth, as well as more importantly allow local patients to access the most cutting-edge drugs.”
Bradford is becoming known as the ‘City of Research’, according to Dr Dinesh Saralya, a consultant respiratory physician and the director of the new centre. Bradford emerged from a shortlist of 35 trusts to win a share of £7m public funding for the project. The money was made available as part of the Government’s strategy to strengthen the UK’s life sciences industry through large-scale trials and is a powerful vote of confidence in Bradford’s progress as a nationally renowned research centre.
Mel Pickup, chief executive of the NHS foundation trust, said: “In these most difficult of times, the race to create effective treatments for Covid-19 is of critical national importance. I am delighted that Bradford Teaching Hospitals will be making a significant contribution to that and that the people of Bradford and the wider region will have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
There are many fine public and private sector endeavours taking place across Bradford during this pandemic. I will be sharing some of these stories over the coming months to remind readers that we are making progress. One particular initiative from the University of Bradford stood out for me this week. It comes from the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies and gives a voice to people living with the syndrome during the lockdown.
The centre has been publishing first-person perspectives of sufferers and their carers in this period of enforced social isolation. The moving accounts have been viewed more than 2,500 times in one month alone. “In times of crisis, people seek personal connections,” said Dr Ana Barbosa, a dementia expert at the university.
For the person writing the blog, it helps them express themselves, connect with others, reduce feelings of isolation and improve wellbeing. For the person reading the blog, it increases knowledge and awareness of dementia and encourages them to identify with the writer. “It helps people to feel they are not alone,” added Dr Barbosa.
The centre is world renowned for its pioneering work in developing the person-centred and mapping approach to dementia care, led by the late Professor Thomas Kitwood and now widely used across the UK. Its latest work highlighting the human stories of the lockdown is to be applauded, offering hope and comfort to sufferers and their families.
For everybody, staying in touch is so important. Sharing positive and inspiring news keeps our spirits up. Over on social media, we urge Bradford-based businesses to spread the word about the good things happening in our district, using the hashtag #TogetherBradfordCan. Regular readers will recall one of my favourite sayings in business: if we can get everyone’s noses pointing the same direction, we can achieve anything. Who knows… we might even find a cure for Covid-19.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership