Professor David Ekers and Professor Simon Gilbody

Researchers awarded £2.4m NIHR funding for groundbreaking research into managing depression among older people

Date: 25 June 2018

A team led by the University of York and Hull York Medical School has secured a £2.4m grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The grant will fund a five year programme of groundbreaking research into how the NHS can effectively manage depression among older people. More than four million people in England with long term physical health conditions also suffer from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, costing the health service up to as much as £13 billion every year.

The team, which is a partnership with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), is jointly led by CRN NENC Specialty Group Lead for Mental Health, Professor David Ekers, and Professor Simon Gilbody, Director of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Group for Hull York Medical School. 

Professor Ekers, an academic within the University of York and TEWV Nurse Consultant  originally trained as a nurse psychotherapist and will co-lead the project. He says: “We regularly hear of the growing challenge to meet the needs of older adults with complex physical and psychological healthcare problems. This programme offers the opportunity to develop and test a practical, acceptable treatment that builds on what we have seen can work for depression in similar groups.

"If we find our new treatment works and can be applied across NHS settings, this could be of substantial value in the coming years to patients and NHS providers alike."

Professor Simon Gilbody is the joint chief investigator in the Multi Morbidity in Older Adults (MODS) Programme at the University of York. He said: “The MODS programme is an important next step for us as we research ways to help promote healthy ageing. The University has been at the forefront of research in this area and we anticipate this research programme will inform practice and policy for many years to come.

"The strategic partnership with TEWV means we’re ideally placed to respond to this and other NHS challenges. This challenge on healthy ageing will only be solved by conducting rigorous research into what works and what is good value for money for the NHS. This is what York does well."

The project is the first to emerge since a strategic partnership was formed between TEWV, one of the UK’s largest mental health trusts, and the University of York in late 2017. It will also bring together the University of Manchester, University of Leeds, Keele University and Age UK, as well as advisory groups consisting of older people living with depression and anxiety, clinicians and academics.

TEWV director of nursing Elizabeth Moody said: "In order to improve outcomes for service users, TEWV NHS Foundation Trust is keen to make research core to the provision of care across all disciplines. The MODS programme of research, with David Ekers, our first nurse professor as chief investigator and Professor Gilbody who is a consultant psychiatrist in the Trust, will help us develop multidisciplinary-led treatments that will meet the future needs of the communities we serve."

Professor Steve Robson, Clinical Director for NIHR CRN NENC said “On behalf of the CRN I would like to offer my congratulations to Professor Dave Ekers on his professorship with the University of York. This is fantastic news for all of the NMAHPs across the region. It’s inspirational to see him achieve such success in his field. 

“Achieving such a significant grant from NIHR is fantastic It will allow Dave and Simon to deliver research in a key area, where there is the opportunity to both improve patient outcomes in older peoples mental health and also to potentially save the NHS a significant amount of money in what are undeniably difficult financial times. 

“I wish Dave and Simon every success in their programme.” 

  • Summary:
    A team led by the University of York and Hull York Medical School has secured a £2.4m grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
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