Edinburgh Napier University has been awarded £772,000 for three projects which could transform the lives of patients suffering from a range of illnesses.
Researchers from the School of Health & Social Care will use grants from the Chief Scientist Office, part of the Scottish Government Health Directorates, to pursue breakthroughs in the treatment of psychosis, abnormal heart rhythm and hepatitis C.
The latest funding round saw the CSO - which works with the NHS to support research and maximise its impact - award the university £287,000 towards developing a psychological intervention which helps people with psychosis make their own decisions about treatment.
In the last 10 years in Scotland, people diagnosed with schizophrenia or related disorders have been judged to lack “capacity” or be unable to understand or weigh up information relevant to their treatment more than 22,000 times.
With clinicians obliged to respect patients’ autonomy where possible, health bodies have called for trials which will drive progress towards them being more capable of having a say.
The School’s Dr Paul Hutton said: “We are delighted the CSO is supporting this project, which will mark the first attempt to use innovative 'Umbrella' trial methodology in mental health research.
“This approach, which essentially involves running multiple trials at the same time,
thus saving time and money, has had remarkable success in accelerating interventions for cancer and other health conditions, but it has never before been used in mental health research.
“If it works, we hope other researchers will be able to use it to speed up the development of effective interventions for other mental health conditions."
A second grant of £283,000 will support efforts to develop a digital aid which helps sufferers of Atrial Fibrillation - an abnormal heart rhythm affecting more than two million in the UK – to take their medication.
People with AF are five-times more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to die as those without AF. Strokes caused by AF are also more likely to be severely disabling.
An oral anticoagulant that prevents blood clots from forming reduces this risk by two-thirds, but 75 per cent of people with AF do not take their medication as recommended.
Researchers are working with patients, medics, policy makers and the Third Sector to develop a tool which helps people understand why they should take their medication and provides timely reminders.
The School’s Professor Lis Neubeck said: “It is wonderful to have the support of the CSO in this work. By working with people living with AF, we can develop something that will be tailored and relevant, but could have broad reach to other conditions that require regular and ongoing medications.”
A further grant of £202,000 will support research which aims to develop GP-led treatment for the hepatitis C virus, an infection which attacks the liver and mostly affects people who have injected drugs.
Treatment for hep C is simple and effective but uptake is estimated at only five to six per cent, meaning thousands are suffering unnecessarily.
Researchers believe moving treatment away from specialist centres and clinicians and into primary care could be the way forward, and the study aims to develop a practicable pathway for GP-led treatment in Scotland.
The School’s Dr David Whiteley said: “Hep C disproportionately affects those marginalised in society, and finding ways to improve access to treatment is vital if Scotland is to meet the World Health Organisation target of eliminating hep C as a public health concern by 2030.”