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DMU and Willows Health launch new research centre to improve patients' lives in Leicester


A pioneering partnership that will transform the care provided to patients in Leicester and Leicestershire has been launched by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and Willows Health. 

The new DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research has been created to provide a platform for collaboration between expert primary care clinicians, expert academics in health and social care and a team of experts in research design.  

By working with Willows Health, Leicestershire's largest GP practice leading on innovation and quality healthcare, DMU academics will conduct original research and offer services that puts the patient at the centre of the discussion. 

While a lot of health research focuses on hospital patients or those referred for treatment, this partnership will focus on primary care patients who are seen by GPs or in community pharmacies. 

Generic patient student dmu

Professor David Mba, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) at DMU, said: “DMU has a long track record of conducting research that makes a real difference to people; research that has a genuine impact on society.   

“By working together with Willows Health, we have an outstanding opportunity to draw on the academic research strengths and deliver high-quality research and services to inform and support health interventions, practice and policy, ensuring people in Leicester can live healthy, independent lives.” 

Professor Rishabh Prasad, Co-founder of DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research and Chairman of Willows Health, said: “Our aim is to use the expertise and insights that our senior colleagues and data tell us, to drive improvements and performance in practice.  

“Every consultation and every interaction we have with patients provides food for research and I hope the centre will be a practical, translational unit that drives better practice in everyday care.”  

Among the first research projects underway through the new centre is a study looking at how smart analytics can be used to remotely monitor changes in the functional ability of older adults during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Professor Bertha Ochieng, Professor of Integrated Health are Social Care at DMU and Co-director of the DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research, said: “Covid has been a wake-up call for each one of us working in health and social care about the importance of research that is focused not just on delivery of healthcare, but also in partnership with communities.  

“Our aspiration is to put forward innovative approaches and technology that will improve healthcare quality, access and efficiency for our diverse communities. We also hope to identify and provide teaching opportunities that will help develop the next generation of clinicians and allied professionals.” 

Other projects in the pipeline will explore mental health provision in Leicestershire (particularly in the wake of Covid), asthma care, diabetes management and the link between Covid-19 and dental health. 

Dr Tariq Kapasi, Medical Director of Willows Health and Co-director of the DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research, said: "Over the last 12 months we have shown resilience, not only as a medical unit but also through our speed and change management in response to Covid, which is a direct result of original research with academic institutions. 

"One of the aims of this collaboration is to directly implement this research into practice and I am confident that we can do this by collaborating with clinicians across Leicester and even nationally." 

Professor Mayur Lakhani CBE, Chair of the West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) practicing GP, and National Chair of The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, said: “Collectively, across the country, one million people will see their GP every working day. We have 133 GP practices in Leicestershire and a population of 1.2 million. That is a rich database; a rich number of contacts to do this research with. We can solve real world problems through this partnership.  

“The average time it takes for research findings to be implemented in practice is 17 years, which is far too long. Covid has shown we can do high-quality research rapidly, overcoming governance barriers and red tape where it is not necessary.  

“The DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research is a dream partnership in my view. It has huge potential and has the support of the NHS in Leicestershire. We have a very ambitious programme of transformation and a research-based academic health science partnership is essential.  

“With the right vision, good governance and topic selection, the sky is the limit.” 

To find out more about the DMU-Willows Centre for Primary Care Research visit:  

Posted on Friday 19th February 2021

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