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£42.7 million funding boost for mental health research

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Published: 30 May 2023

A new £42.7 million investment into mental health research has been announced by the NIHR and the Office for Life Sciences.

The new Mental Health Mission (MHM) will develop innovative new treatments and technologies. The Mission will work with patients, NHS staff and clinicians and innovators to make the UK a leading location in which to test and trial new products.

Two Co-Chairs have been appointed:

  • Kathryn Abel, Professor of Psychological Medicine and Reproductive Psychiatry at the University of Manchester
  • Husseini Manji, Visiting Professor at Oxford and Duke Universities.

Together, they will:

  • set the overarching strategic direction
  • drive forward its delivery
  • build strong, collaborative working relationships across the wider clinical and research communities
  • represent the Mission nationally and internationally.

The Mental Health Mission will be delivered via the NIHR’s Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration (MH-TRC).

This is a network of leading investigators who specialise in mental health research. It is led by Professor John Geddes of the University of Oxford, and Professor Rachel Upthegrove of the University of Birmingham.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said:

“Mental ill health affects many people. This investment in the Mental Health Mission aims to deliver a truly exciting range of innovative therapies and technologies that could greatly improve people's lives.

"For example, the development of wellbeing apps, games and services to diagnose child mental health problems early could provide valuable new methods of treatment.

"And in the true spirit of collaboration, the work has intentionally been spread across the country so that more people are able to participate in world-leading mental health research than ever before.”

Professor Abel and Professor Manji said:

“We are delighted to be working together to make the new Mental Health Mission a truly revolutionary force behind mental health research. We want the Mission to create tangible differences to the lives of patients, both in the UK and internationally. Between us, we bring a wealth of experience in mental health research and innovation, and a commitment to genuine collaboration with patients, industry and healthcare staff.

"Bringing together the public sector, patients and industry as equal partners, the Mission will work with the Office for Life Sciences and the NIHR to support the NHS and NIHR to capitalise on its size and scope, and on the depth of its data resources. Alongside additional investment in mental health research and infrastructure, the Mission will foster a step change in the way we think about mental health, mental illness and its treatment. This will support development of the critically needed treatments across the spectrum of mental illness.

"We want the UK to be the most attractive place to conduct robust, high impact mental health research, ensuring people have access to the best, and newest, treatments. We are confident that the Mission will be unique in its ability to convene and challenge national partners to make this happen.”

Demonstrator sites

Of the total investment, more than £20 million will go towards establishing demonstrator sites in Birmingham and Liverpool (£9.9m and £10.5m over five years respectively).

The new centre in Liverpool will help people look after their mental health by understanding how mental, physical and social conditions interlink.

The site in Birmingham will support research and the development of novel treatments for:

  • early intervention in psychosis, depression and children
  • young people suffering from mental ill health.

The remainder of the £42.7m fund will go to UK-wide work focussed on conditions such as depression and early psychosis. It also help to build mental health research capacity in the NHS, and embedding research findings into practice.

The establishment of sites in the Midlands and the North further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to Levelling Up. It will ensure communities across the UK get to take part in, and benefit from research.

The Mental Health Mission is one of the healthcare research priorities announced by the government as part of its Life Sciences Vision. It will take a Vaccine Taskforce style approach to tackling some of the biggest public health challenges facing the UK.

Building on the model which led to one of the most successful vaccine roll outs in the world and ensured millions got a Covid-19 jab, the government will continue to:

  • harness world-leading research expertise
  • remove unnecessary bureaucracy
  • strengthen partnerships
  • support the new healthcare challenges.

According to NHS England, one in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental illness. Bolstering research in this area could help millions of people across the country. The mission will engage with industry by eliminating barriers to develop and test new products, attracting additional private investment and cementing the UK as a life sciences superpower.

Read more about the Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration.

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