Healthcare research moves up the agenda in Mid Wales as new Centre for Excellence is launched

Bronglais General Hospital Tomos Nolan

Bronglais General Hospital
Credit: Tomos Nolan

DURING an announcement made on Thursday at the launch of the Centre for Excellence in Rural Healthcare, Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Professor Mark Drakeford AM, has also started the Centre for Excellence in Rural Health Research.

The new research centre will see Aberystwyth University work closely with the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative and Hywel Dda University Health Board to address some of the unique challenges of delivering healthcare in a rural area such as Mid Wales.

The Centre will also promote and support an attractive research environment for clinical staff in partner health organisations.

Aberystwyth’s Bronglais hospital serves a catchment of over 100,000 people, with the nearest general hospitals being 90 miles to the north, 75 miles to the east and 48 miles to the south. With it’s resources regularly being stretched and tested it is a lifeline to a huge number of rural communities

Dr Rachel Rahman, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Rural Health Research said:

“Delivery of healthcare to rural populations is challenging, not only in the UK but in developed and developing countries around the world. Attempting to address the unique challenges of rural healthcare through the simplistic extension of urban approaches is not effective and rarely accounts for the challenges of local geographies, cultural nuances, and economies of scale.”

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, added:

“I’m delighted that we’re able to work with Aberystwyth University and the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative on this exciting new project. We know that the challenges facing rural healthcare delivery are many and varied and together with our partners we will be taking a resourceful, innovative approach to find sustainable and lasting solutions that are of real benefit to communities in Mid West Wales.”

Dr Sue Fish, Clinical Programme Director of the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative and GP in Borth, Ceredigion said:

“The new Research Centre in Aberystwyth University will provide an exciting opportunity for the current and future clinical staff working in Mid Wales to become involved in research and innovation projects, which will develop the solutions to the challenges of providing rural health care.

One of the first priorities will be to build on the experience in telemedicine which already exists in Bronglais General Hospital to develop the use of technology, so that specialist care can be made available closer to people’s homes across Mid Wales”.

Professor Chris Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research added:

“Aberystwyth University has a key role to play in improving prosperity and wellbeing in Wales’ rural communities, and this new Centre is one of a cluster of new initiatives to do just that.

The challenges of rural healthcare require interdisciplinary thinking, so it is great to see the range of expertise we can bring to bear on the problem. Other universities and partners across Wales will also be contributing to the Minister’s initiative in their areas of strength, so between us I hope we can drive a real step change in thinking and make health care in Mid Wales an exemplar for the world.”

Researchers based at the University’s Departments of Psychology, Computer Science, Geography and Earth Sciences, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences have been working in areas that have potentially significant benefits for health care in rural areas.

The Centre will also build on current collaborative research with external partners who are key to delivering health and social care in rural areas.