Monday 14 May 2018

Top 10 priorities for multiple conditions in later life announced

At a fantastic event for the public, researchers from Newcastle announced the top ten priorities for the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) in Multiple Conditions in Later Life.

The Ageing Matters event took place at the Sage Gateshead and welcomed members of the public to hear about the latest research in ageing, taking place in Newcastle. It was also the official launch of the Top 10 priorities for multiple conditions in later life

The initiative to gather the top ten priorities, was part of the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs); partnerships which enable clinicians, patients and carers to work together to identify and prioritise uncertainties about the effects of treatments that could be answered by research. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), there are several PSPs, but researchers in Newcastle led on the area of Multiple Conditions in Later Life.

The need for better research in ageing

Across the globe, for most nations, regardless of their geographic location or developmental stage, the 80+ age group is growing faster than any other. In the UK by mid-2039, more than 1 in 12 of the population is projected to be aged 80 or over.

Whilst this increased longevity is a great success, it is also accompanied by an increase in the number of people living with multiple conditions, and though this is not just a problem for older adults, it is much more common in this older age group.

Healthcare delivery was built, and generally remains centred, on the treatment of single diseases and, traditionally, researchers have focused on a single disease or disease pairs. This priority setting partnership (PSP) aims to draw attention and provide direction to this under-researched area.

Involving the public in key research

Bringing together considerable strength in ageing research, experts in Newcastle were tasked with taking the lead on an area which focussed on health and social care in later life.

Dr Lynne Corner, Director of Voice, brought together colleagues to create a committee that successfully delivered the PSP in Multiple Conditions in Later Life. She commented:

“We’re extremely proud of the expertise we have here in Newcastle, and it is very rewarding to see a group come together from different areas to focus on making a better future for so many people living with health and social care challenges.

“We involved funders, charities, clinicians, academia, but perhaps most importantly, we involved the public, and the results were a true reflection on what people feel is needed to deliver the best direction to this under researched area”.

A key partner in the PSP was Age UK, represented by Research Manager, Libby Archer. The role of Age UK in gathering the top ten priorities in Multiple Conditions in Later Life, was to ensure an external representation between academia and research.

Ageing research expertise in Newcastle

Newcastle was a natural fit to lead on the area of Multiple Conditions in Later Life; hosting several major projects in this area. A key link in the PSP activity was the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC); a partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University.

One of 20 BRCs in England, the Newcastle centre delivers world-leading research to improve lives in ageing and long-term conditions. Professor Avan Sayer who leads the NIHR Newcastle BRC and spoke at the event commented: “With our focus being on ageing and the under researched area of multiple conditions, we were delighted to be part of such a vital initiative to lead on making major improvements in this field”.

Joining Professor Avan Sayer at the event was Professor Miles Witham, newly appointed Chair of Clinical Trials in Older People at Newcastle University. Professor Witham gave an inspirational talk on the need for greater representation of older people in clinical trials so that we are able to gather the evidence needed to address challenges for pressing health needs that are not currently being met.

The PSP also included representation from the NIHR Clinical Research Network who have a speciality area in Ageing research. Stuart Parker, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Newcastle University leads in this area and welcomed the guests at the event and described the PSP.

Across the National Institute for Health Research nationally, ageing and the complex health needs we experience as we age is a big priority and in addition to the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR CRN cluster in ageing, there are several parts of the NIHR that are focussing research in this field.

Also key to the PSP process was Voice, which brought in representation from the public on how to identify, reach and engage the target audience who were so instrumental in deciding the priorities in this area.

Amongst biomedical and clinical areas of ageing expertise, Newcastle also has considerable strength in the translation of academic discoveries into innovation and industry. The Newcastle University Institute for Ageing (NUIA) brings together the academic expertise from across the University as a hub for research and innovation activity focused on how we can ‘live better for longer’.

Newcastle University also hosts the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) – a national-facing, government-backed initiative that brings together world-leading scientists, business and industry, health and care providers, and the public, to develop, test and bring to market products and services which enhance and improve quality of life as we age.