Friday 17 May 2019

Growing research in geriatric medicine

More needs to be done to grow academic geriatric medicine if we are to provide the best care for the growing older population, according to a newly published article from leading UK academic geriatricians.

Led by Professors Avan Sayer and Miles Witham from the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, the report highlights the fact that the volume of geriatric medicine research lags behind the volume of clinical activity.

Understanding the problem

Caring for older people is increasingly important for the NHS as people are living longer and also increasingly living with multiple diseases; research suggests the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035.

At present, there is a mismatch between the scale of healthcare need for older people and the relatively modest amount of research funding and activity in this area which is holding back much-needed innovation. Although a number of initiatives have aimed to redress the balance, the amount of activity in ageing research is still significantly less than in disease specific areas.

The article, published in Age and Ageing, was produced following a meeting of UK academic geriatricians brought together by the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. It identified the key causes of this research gap as:

• Capacity – there are few research-active clinicians compared to the volume of clinical activity and this shortage is evident for academic nurses and allied healthcare professionals (AHPs) in the field as well as doctors.
• Culture – A perception that research is not central to the practice of geriatric medicine
• A failure of translation – a lot of ageing research take place in discovery science but with few clinicians directly involved, to date this work has often failed to translate into patient care.

Developing solutions

In considering these issues the group identified four major areas of activity which could deliver much needed growth in the volume of geriatric medicine research:

• Better support for early-career clinical researchers
• Schemes to encourage non-University clinicians to be research-active
• Wider collaboration with organ specialists to broaden the amount of funding available for research into older people
• Greater co-production of research programmes with end-users.

Avan Sayer, Director of the NIHR Newcastle BRC and & Professor of Geriatric Medicine said:

“Finding ways to grow research in geriatric medicine is essential if we are going to meet the challenge of improving healthcare for older people. This is now increasingly being recognised and prioritised by governments and funders so there has never been a better time to demonstrate that, as a community, we can bring academic and clinical activity together to provide better care for our patients”.

The NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre is a partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University and its vision is improving lives through world-class research in ageing and long-term conditions. One of the ways in which we are seeking to achieve that vision is by training the next generation of translational researchers in ageing and long-term conditions.

Growing research in geriatric medicine
Miles D Witham et al
Age and Ageing