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Scottish hepatology project secures NIHR funding

Scottish hepatology project secures NIHR funding

24th April 2023

The Scottish Hepatology Access Research Partnership (SHARP) will develop research ideas to understand and improve access to liver services in Scotland

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funding is designed to support the building of capacity and capability in liver disease research.

Through this support for the establishment and growth of enduring partnerships, networks, and collaborations in liver disease research, it is expected that the initial call will ultimately lead to the submission of high-quality proposals for a secondary NIHR-commissioned call for liver disease research, launching in early 2024.

The SHARP project will bring together specialists in liver disease and public health, general practitioners, social care services, charities and patient representatives through the British Liver Trust (BLT). These diverse members will form a Management Group, which will develop research ideas; and an Advisory Group which will review them to make sure they are aimed at helping the care of people with liver disease who are geographically or socially isolated and have difficulty engaging with specialist liver services.

Speaking about attaining the funding, Dr Ruairi Lynch, Consultant Hepatologist, NHS Tayside and joint lead applicant, said: “We are delighted to have secured this support to develop an array of research ideas to improve liver services in Scotland. Potential areas of research might include finding out about people’s experience of contacting liver services and how it can be made better; finding new ways to detect and monitor liver disease without needing to travel to hospitals; and working out how to care for those who don’t have access to the internet.

“The inclusion of the BLT is of particular importance to us at SHARP. Their role is not only to provide a patient’s view on the research ideas, but also to help design and deliver the studies. We hope that this partnership will lead to patient-led research that will deliver real change.”

Professor Ewan Forrest, NHS Research Scotland (NRS) Hepatology Clinical Lead and joint lead applicant, added: “It’s fantastic news that this funding has been awarded to the SHARP project. Many people with liver disease have trouble in seeing doctors and specialist medical services, and Scotland has a higher rate of deaths from liver disease than other parts of the UK, often related to deprived areas and areas isolated from medical services. That makes this research important for the Scottish population. Scotland is ideally placed to conduct this research with consistent links between Health Boards and social services, and very good electronic health records which can be accessed from the Safe Havens, make Scotland a very good setting too.”

Although this project is based in Scotland, the work will apply to other areas of the UK which have similar issues with people who can’t easily see liver doctors, but who need high-quality liver services.

SHARP aims to start early in 2023 and will spend 15 months developing research ideas for the NIHR project call early in 2024.

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