Making a difference

We provide evidence and expertise to national organisations including the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE), Public Health England (PHE), Royal College of General Practitioners, Department of Work and Pensions, collaborate closely with local and regional partners to support the uptake of evidence into clinical practice, and work with patients and public bodies to support the translation of evidence into ‘tools’ for everyday use.

Our data intelligence and epidemiology feeds into developing interventions with our stakeholders, into trials of the interventions in practice and proactive dissemination and implementation with our partners (public and healthcare).

We work closely with patients and the public and other stakeholders to identify and prioritise research questions, and when designing and carrying out our research. 

 Translational epidemiology example  

Stakeholder involvement, strong local and regional partnerships with academic and non-academic organisations, and established relationships with national professional bodies and policymakers play an important role across all stages of our translational research to ensure our work is relevant to their needs.

We are members of the West Midlands Academic Research Collaboration (ARC) and have good working relationships with the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

Our staff hold academic consultant contracts with Public Health England, and work with the Department for Work & Pensions, Versus Arthritis, and Age UK on projects and initiatives. Key local partners include Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust, North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Stoke-on-Trent CCG, Shropshire CCG, Staffordshire County Council, and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

We work with our dedicated Impact Accelerator Unit (IAU), partners, and collaborators to generate high impact for our research findings, ensuring knowledge mobilisation and implementation is considered in the design of research projects, and that patient and public involvement and engagement is embedded across all research stages. Our IAU is part of the West Midlands Knowledge Mobilisation Collaboration, a partnership between knowledge mobilization colleagues at Keele University, Birmingham City University, Warwick University and the West Midlands Applied Research Collaboration.

Front cover to 'A guide for people who have osteoarthritis' ‌ 

Our research underpins better information that is made accessible to patients, the public and practitioners to support self-management. The practical examples cited below are provided to demonstrate this approach, please see the Impact Accelerator Unit website for further examples.

Gout affects 1 in 40 adults in the UK. It causes excruciating attacks of joint pain, long-term joint damage and impaired health-related quality of life. Our qualitative research explored people’s experiences of having gout and identified the issues relating to causes, diagnosis, and treatment that are important to them. Using these findings we worked with patients and members of the public to develop educational materials about gout to support patients, carers and healthcare professionals. This includes our module for which provides online patient-facing educational materials for gout to support patients, carers and healthcare professionals (to date this resource has been accessed over 400,000 times since going live and the gout videos are viewed 4,000 times per month.

Common misconceptions of osteoarthritis are that it is ‘just your age’, that it involves inevitable wearing out of joints and progressive disability, and that nothing can be done except to replace the affected joint. Our Osteoarthritis Guidebook co-produced with patients and members of the public, combines scientific understanding with lived experiences of osteoarthritis. The guidebook was adopted nationally as a resource for the public by Versus Arthritis and recommended as part of the suite of tools by Red Whale (a national primary care education provider) for use during Covid system transformation (remote working and supporting patients), in addition to being translated/adapted for use in the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and Norway. Visit JIGSAW-E for more information on supported self-management for joint pain.

Self-harm can affect anyone, regardless of age, but most of the research on self-harm is about younger people. A leaflet was created to provide information to people of all ages affected by self-harm. This was developed by I. Troya (PhD student at Keele University) in collaboration with the study’s Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Group.

We work with local, regional and national providers of health and care services to support the uptake of our evidence into practice, developing tools and resources to support implementation in the context of these services. The example of STarT Back is used to provide an example of the implementation of evidence through the translational research cycle.

Back pain accounts for 10% of all years lived with disability. Over a period of several years, our research teams and partners developed and evaluated the STarT Back model of ‘risk stratified’ care, showing that this approach reduces disability and saves money. It was selected by Universities UK in the top 100 key UK innovations (2018), and is recommended by NICE. Twelve Academic Health Science Networks across England are now engaged in its implementation.

STarT Back and SWAP interventions, developed and evaluated by researchers at Keele, feature as recommended services in PHE’s Return on Investment tool for commissioners.

STarT Back Epidemiology to Implementation

Commissioned research and consultancy, undertaken as part of our academic consultant contract, contributes to Public Health England’s strategic framework for musculoskeletal health.

Working with regional, national and international bodies our approach is to use best evidence to influence policy, examples of this approach include:

Influencing national policy

Our research on models of care for improved access to physiotherapists for people with musculoskeletal problems has informed the national policy (NHS Long Term Plan 2019) of implementing First Contact Practitioner (FCP) services.

Research undertaken with colleagues in Southampton on physical occupational exposures associated with knee osteoarthritis was informed a change in legislation with Parliament approving the addition of osteoarthritis of the knee in miners, carpet fitters and carpet and floor layers to the prescribed list of industrial injuries (PDA14).

Our work in health literacy has been cited as a national exemplar & ‘pioneering’ in the All Party Parliamentary Group Primary Care report and the Public Health England (PHE) report on Health Literacy and Health Inequalities.

Influencing international policy

Our research has informed international policy; work on the epidemiology of the impact of osteoarthritis on the population of the United States of America has been included in A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis: 2020 update (Center for Disease Control, 2020).

Our estimates of Healthy Working Life Expectancy in people with osteoarthritis across Europe were presented, following invitation, to policymakers across Europe (European League Against Rheumatism Congress, Frankfurt, June 2020).

Our approach to public health research is to support national priorities where our expertise can help, an example of this includes our contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Over 45,000 heart procedures were missed due to the covid-19 pandemic - Professor Mamas Mamas
  • Keele university supports covid-19 vaccination trial - Sarah Lawton
  • 'Long covid' sufferers experience prolonged fatigue months after infection, new study finds - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • Researchers warn doctors are making decisions based on flawed covid-19 data - Professor Richard Riley
  • About 5,000 heart attack sufferers in England missed out on lifesaving hospital treatment due to covid-19 pandemic - Professor Mamas Mamas
  • Keele joins major programme to help develop antibody tests to track level of covid-19 infection in the community - Sarah Lawton
  • Researchers to trial new intervention to prevent older people from being lonely during lockdown - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • New study aims to understand the impact of covid-19 on social and professional lives - Professor Christian Mallen and Professor Lisa Dikomitis
  • Researchers launch covid-19 survey to improve health messages to children - Professor Joanne Protheroe
  • Covid-19 studies based on potentially ‘weak and over-optimistic’ data, warn Keele researchers - Professor Richard Riley
  • Webinar on long-covid at British Psychoanalytic Society - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • National training delivered to IAPT practitioners via BJGP LIfe on long-COVID, in December - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • Making every contact count (COVID-19 and long-term conditions) - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • Webinar on Long COVID: Understanding the shadow of the virus - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham
  • ROS tool kit - Best Practices for effective and safe virtual clinical consultations in fracture liaison service and osteoporosis - Zoe Paskins 
  • Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disorders in primary care: an observational study of UK national primary care electronic health records - Dr Victoria Welsh
  • Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham invited to join NHSE 'Long COVID' Taskforce to tackle persistent symptoms
  • IAPT training webinar: Assessing and engaging people recovering from COVID - 3,832 people registered - Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham