New Scottish study to address challenges of health inequality

A MAJOR new £2.5m project will address health inequality using medical technologies developed by partners across Scotland.

It will examine how advancements in technology could move treatments away from large hospitals and into more accessible settings such as GP surgeries or a patient’s home.

‘Accelerating Impact of Community Health Care in Tayside’ (AICCET) will be led by the University of Dundee and Heriot-Watt University, in collaboration with NHS Tayside.

Experts from five Scottish universities will work to identify the feasibility and challenges to such a transition, all whilst maintaining or improving levels of patient care.

Professor Michael MacDonald
Professor Michael MacDonald

Michael MacDonald, Professor of Biomedical Photonics at the University of Dundee, said:

“One of the major challenges that face health boards is ensuring that it can meet the needs of the public, regardless of an individual’s circumstances.

“Currently, much of that care will be delivered at a single site, which may be hard to access for some patients due to where they live or personal transportation or mobility challenges.

“Technology allows us to reconsider how, and where, services are delivered.

“The Tayside region provides a perfect microcosm of the issues that have faced healthcare providers and our work with Heriot-Watt University and partners will look to address these.

“Ultimately, we hope to identify ways in which we can improve the patient journey and reduce the requirement for clinical staff to deliver some treatments, freeing up their time to focus on other pressing patient needs.”

AICCET will consult and engage with patients that may benefit from treatments being delivered in a local setting, co-creating healthcare solutions which are patient-centred.

The views of the public will play a vital role in the research, with a ‘citizen assembly’ established, allowing the team to learn more about individual patient needs.

Another crucial aspect will be cooperation with industry partners, to ensure that mass manufacturing of technology can be provided should successful outcomes be identified.

The study will take place in the Tayside region due to its mixture of urban and rural communities and economically diverse population.

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Place-based Impact Acceleration Account, part of UK Research and Innovation, which is funding ten major projects throughout the UK.

Heriot-Watt’s Professor Marc Desmulliez said: “We want to empower patients, when it is reasonable and possible, to be more involved in their own healthcare solutions using technology that is tested and meets the needs of the NHS.

“For example, during their rehabilitation after an invasive surgery, patients may have to carry out some exercises to aid in their recovery.

“A healthcare solution could be a system that records and monitors the exercise.

“The essential information is then sent to the surgeon who is in charge to make sure the patient is progressing as planned.

“This could mean that if the patient is on track, they might not need to go to hospital for a check-up because the doctor has already seen the progress being made.

“Our hope will be to identify how we can ultimately accelerate the impact of community healthcare throughout Tayside to the benefit of all patients, regardless of their personal circumstances.”

Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair at EPSRC, said: “I’m pleased to announce our first ten Place-Based Impact Acceleration Accounts which will play a unique role in enhancing the capabilities of innovation clusters across the UK.

“A key priority for UKRI is to strengthen clusters and partnerships in collaboration with civic bodies and businesses, thereby driving regional economic growth.”