Over £2 million funding secured for musculoskeletal research centre

Keele’s arthritis and musculoskeletal specialists are part of a research collaboration that has secured renewed funding to continue its pioneering research to help those with long-term conditions.

Researchers from Keele’s Primary Care Centre Versus Arthritis, working with colleagues from the University of Southampton and others, have contributed to a successful collaborative application to renew the National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work for a further five years (2019-24).

The £2.2 million award by Versus Arthritis and the Medical Research Council will allow researchers to continue

discovering and developing cost-effective ways to reduce the burden of work disability caused by musculoskeletal conditions. These include low back pain, osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, gout and rarer conditions such as lupus, which cost an estimated 30.6 million working days to be lost each year.

The centre is coordinated from the University of Southampton’s Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU), and involves multidisciplinary collaboration with various universities, healthcare trusts and institutes.

The UK has the highest rates of new claims for disability of any of the Organisation of Economic and Commercial Development (OECD) countries with the two most common causes of disability being musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions.

Over the last five years, the initial investment in the centre has enabled the MRC LEU to build collaborations and develop a critical mass of research skills as well as a talented group of early career scientists now supported to strengthen research capacity in key areas. From the initial award, collaborators have also succeeded in leveraging an additional £5 million for work and health research on which the centre expects to build substantially.

Dr Gwenllian Wynne-Jones, Dr Ross Wilkie and Professor George Peat, from the Primary Care Centre Versus Arthritis at Keele University, said: “We are very excited to be part of the National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work and looking forward to the collaboration. Primary care is an important part of the picture, capable of providing effective early support to people with musculoskeletal conditions. The research planned within this collaboration will advance our understanding on how to improve this.”

A spokesperson for Versus Arthritis, on behalf of the funders, said: “Arthritis and related conditions affect 17.8 million people in the UK and can cause excruciating pain and fatigue. Living with these conditions can steal people’s independence, preventing them from being able to remain in work. Our insight shows many people leave work due to lack of support, suitable adjustments and understanding of their condition from employers. It’s no surprise then that musculoskeletal conditions are the second leading cause of days lost at work.