New NHS medical alliance aims to put North East at centre of pioneering research | Newcastle Chronicle | 9 October 2015

October 13, 2015

From The Chronicle, Newcastle, 9 October 2015. Story by Craig Thompson.


A new alliance has been formed to deliver “trailblazing health services” and make the North East a centre of pioneering medical research.

The partnerships aims to harness world-class expertise, ensuring patients in the region benefit sooner from new treatments and earlier diagnoses.

Bringing together Newcastle Hospitals and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trusts and Newcastle University, the newly-formed ‘Newcastle Academic Health Partners’ hopes to deliver pioneering healthcare through scientific research, education and patient care.

The new alliance will be focusing on leading the way in scientific advances to tackle common diseases such as dementia. It will also specialise in improving understanding and treatment of cancer, diseases that affect the brain and those affecting children.

Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive for the Newcastle Hospitals (pictured), said:

“Newcastle has a long-standing, international reputation for delivering trailblazing health services. This wouldn’t be possible without the leading edge research carried out in partnership with Newcastle University, and we very much see this formal partnership, alongside new partners Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, as a springboard to cultivate even more pioneering research to benefit the people of the North East and beyond.”

John Lawlor, chief executive of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our service users have already benefited from research carried out in partnership with Newcastle University and we are excited about the opportunities provided by this formal partnership to deliver world-leading research to benefit people around the world.”

The partners have developed a five year plan that includes recruiting and training the next generation of researchers and providing national leadership in healthcare education. This collaborative approach is helping attract some of the brightest researchers and practitioners to Newcastle and the North East region.

Professor Chris Day, pro vice chancellor in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, said: “This partnership is at the forefront of translating scientific advances made at Newcastle University into direct benefits for patients.

“This strategy has already led to major advances in healthcare within the region, as well as nationally and internationally”.

Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are already benefitting from the medical expertise provided by newly formed alliance.

Professor Julia Newton, clinical professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University, who also works within Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has led a team of experts who have found an abnormality of a protein which could lead to the development of new drugs and treatments.

Researchers found that patients with the condition have a defect in a molecule associated with the production of a protein known as AMP kinase (AMPK) – the first time such a discovery has been made which will provide greater understanding of CFS.

Professor Newton said: “At the moment we don’t know what causes CFS and, as a result, there are no biological-based treatments that can be given to patients.

“There are a great number suffering significant problems with CFS and our work is heading towards looking for medications that we can use to improve patients’ symptoms and hopefully find a cure.”

CFS is a common condition that affects approximately 600,000 people in the UK. It causes crippling fatigue, often with severe muscle pain that does not go away, and can create long-term disability.

Professor Newton added: “A real strength in the North East is that the university and hospital trusts work closely together, pulling on each other’s academic and clinical strengths so that we can be sure our work is of the very highest quality to help patients.”


One patient who knows first-hand the importance of the CFS research being carried out is Kirsty Harwood who was diagnosed with the condition a year ago, after suffering symptoms for a number of months.

The mother-of-two, from High Heaton, Newcastle, has welcomed the research breakthrough brought about by Newcastle Academic Health Partners.

Kirsty, 46, an Environment Agency worker, said: “When you’re diagnosed with the condition you feel isolated as there is no treatment or cure and it turns your life upside down.

“I went from being a fully independent working mum, to becoming dependent on my partner to look after me and my two daughters in the space of two weeks. We don’t know what, and may never know what, caused it just that we now have to deal with it.

“The research that’s going on in the North East is exciting and offers real hope to those suffering with the illness that a treatment may become available.

“It would be amazing for people, and their families, if medication could be established to treat the debilitating symptoms that we have to deal with each day.”

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