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Improving treatments and services at local NHS trusts

24 January 2020

2 minutes to read

Improving treatments and services at local NHS trusts

For over a decade, the University of Exeter has worked collaboratively with the NHS, delivering a large number of research projects to improve services, treatments and patient quality of life. Projects have been undertaken across the country involving academic disciplines from sports science to engineering.

HERO trial

A five year study, currently underway, the HERO trial, has seen academics from Exeter and Leeds alongside NHS physiotherapists develop a 6-month home-based rehab programme for older people living with frailty following a hospital stay. The research, led in the South West by Exeter’s Professor Vicki Goodwin and Professor Claire Hulme, which is still in its delivery stage, investigates whether an extended period of rehabilitation could improve quality-of-life.

More than 530 patients have been enrolled in the trial, which was funded by the National Institute of Health Research. On finishing the rehabilitation programme participants will be followed up for a year before the team analyse the data.

Research led by Professor Vicki Goodwin in collaboration with NHS ambulance staff, is also looking to improve quality of live for patients by investigating what happens and what should be done when a patient falls and can’t get up. The qualitative research which will involve a series of interviews with patients, carers, NHS ambulance staff, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, will explore how to help people be more independent when dealing with a fall.

The REACH-HF project which enhances the quality of life of people with heart disease by improved access to home-based cardiac rehabilitation services, has had a major influence on clinical guidelines on cardiac rehabilitation in the NHS and globally. The theory-based home rehabilitation programme which was co-developed with patients and carers, is more cost-effective than hospital-based rehabilitation, and has improved quality-of-life for patients.


PenARC (NIHR Applied Research Collaboration [ARC] South West Peninsula) is a collaborative partnership between the NHS and the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth which supports the translation of research into NHS practice.

PenARC’s research falls under five themes: complex care, dementia, mental health, public health and methods for research and improvement. Their patient-focussed research informs local NHS trusts on how services can be changed to benefit patients, staff and the public.


Within PenARC, the PenCHORD (Peninsula Collaboration for Health Operational Research and Development) team work in close collaboration with health organisations to improve services.

Research from Dr Michael Allen, Professor Martin James, Kerry Pearn, Professor Ken Stein and Dr Martin Pitt identified the optimum number and locations for emergency stroke centres. This shaped the NHS strategy for the location and development of national stroke services.

A study of historical data of acute adult psychiatric pathways enabled NHS providers to plan the development of mental health services and facilities based on anticipated demand and was instrumental in the approval of multi-million pound facilities at Exeter and Torbay.

PenCHORD’s,  Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMA) programme enables NHS staff from a range of backgrounds to spend one day a week with University experts, learning how to use the latest advances in computer simulation. These Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMAs for short) spent 12 months with their academic mentors, receiving support and training to tackle an important problem facing their Trust.

The simulation modelling developed in the HSMA programme has been used in PenCHORD’s work increasing mental health patient bed capacity in Torbay, and in improving wait times and admission rates in North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust Accident and Emergency.


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