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Professor Miles Witham appointed new national lead for Ageing


The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has appointed Miles Witham, Professor of Trials for Older People at Newcastle University as the National Speciality Lead (NSL) for Ageing for the NIHR’s Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN). 

Professor Miles Witham, Professor of Trials for Older People at Newcastle University, has been appointed NIHR CRN NSL for Ageing. Prof Witham will hold the role until the end of March 2022 and he has taken over from Professor Helen Roberts from Southampton, who stepped down at the end of May following four years in the role.

In his new position as NIHR CRN NSL for CRN Ageing, Miles will be looking to better enable a research environment where more collaborators are trained and equipped to deliver more studies for more older people, using the best that big data and methodological innovation can provide to facilitate participation by as wide a range of older people as possible, in a range of settings that reflect health need and clinical activity. He has been the local Ageing clinical lead for CRN North East North Cumbria for the last year.

Miles Witham is an academic geriatrician whose research focuses on improving physical function and quality of life for older people, using a wide range of interventions, including pharmacological agents, nutrition, exercise and strategies of care. As Professor of Trials for Older People he is developing a programme of trials to test interventions targeting sarcopenia and frailty, whilst also building capacity across the UK to conduct more trials for older people and to improve the way that we design and run these trials.

Professor Witham works closely with the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, where he is the Deputy Theme Lead for Ageing Syndromes, a cross-cutting research area that builds on Newcastle's international reputation for basic science, epidemiological and clinical ageing research. This involves working collaboratively with BRC colleagues working in the fields of dementia, liver disease, musculoskeletal disease, neuromuscular disease and skin and oral disease in order to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ageing syndromes such as sarcopenia, frailty and multimorbidity.

As NSL for CRN Ageing, Professor Witham will provide national leadership to researchers and research-interested clinicians and practitioners working to promote health, prevent illness and improve treatment for older adults. NSLs are the key clinical ambassadors for the NIHR CRN and as such he will be responsible for helping to raise the profile of ageing research through developing relationships with a variety of groups including the public sector, charities and life-science funding organisations and maintain oversight of the specialty’s research portfolio.

Commenting on his new role, Professor Witham said:

"I'm pleased and excited to take up the role of National Specialty Lead for the CRN Ageing Specialty. Given the increasing number of older people that our NHS and social care services provide for, getting high-quality research evidence to underpin clinical care for older people has never been more important. CRN Ageing plays a key role in delivering clinical studies that the NHS, social care and older patients need, and we need to keep growing the capacity of the network to deliver the types of study that our patients need, whether this be in their own homes, hospitals, clinics, or care homes. Professor Roberts' leadership over the last four years has given us a fantastic platform to build on, and I look forward to working with colleagues within CRN Ageing and more widely across NIHR to make sure that we give as many older people the opportunity to take part in research as possible."

As our departing NIHR CRN Ageing NSL, Professor Helen Roberts guided the group from operating in our legacy comprehensive CRN structures in 2015 to functioning in our current ‘one network‘ approach. She is delighted that recording of participants’ age in trials is now enabled across the CRN portfolio - an objective the Ageing National Specialty Group has been championing for a number of years. Throughout her tenure as Ageing NSL, CRN Ageing has established very good working relationships with both Age UK and the British Geriatric Society as key stakeholders, which is set to continue, whilst relationships with other partner organisations are being strengthened and developed. Under Helen’s leadership, CRN Ageing also made a significant contribution to the NIHR James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership on Multiple Conditions in Later Life (multimorbidity) and facilitated the HoW CGA (Hospital Wide Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment) NIHR funded study. We wish Helen well as she continues to research ways to improve the health of older people, with a focus on applied health research.