The UK government has announced a new ‘Vaccines Task Force style approach’ to address a range of health challenges, including mental health.
The government has Announce today Over £113m to fund research in 4 healthcare missions – cancer, obesity, mental health and addiction – to unlock the next generation of medicines and diagnostics to save lives, transform patient care and ensure UK patients are the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs.
The Mental Health Mission will receive more than £40m in funding for mental health research, particularly in the use of digital technologies as interventions for mental illness.
MQ CEO Leah Milligan was involved in planning the mental health mission, and MQ is a key stakeholder in the project.
“This new investment in some of countries’ biggest health challenges is exactly what is needed to ensure that society’s most vulnerable are supported. I hope this targeted investment in mental health research will put at the heart the voice of people with lived experience in mental health, and catalyze partnerships with industries new technologies, and ultimately gets new, evidence-based interventions into the hands of frontline services and NHS staff.I am deeply encouraged by the work OLS has done to listen to people from across the mental health research spectrum and the public;respond with timely and focused investments to transform the future of mental health through search.”
Leah Milligan, CEO of MQ Mental Health Research
Building on the Vaccine Task Force model, the government will continue to harness world-leading research expertise, remove unnecessary bureaucracy, foster partnerships and support new healthcare challenges.
In addition, tackling these healthcare challenges could save the NHS and the economy billions of pounds – and it’s estimated that poor mental health costs the economy £118 billion a year.
The Prime Minister, Minister for Health and Social Care and Business Secretary will meet today with key industry figures, including global CEOs, NHS leaders and industry experts at the Life Sciences Council to discuss how their support will deliver life-changing innovations for patients, boost NHS efficiency and ensure the UK remains a global superpower in Life science.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
The NHS is facing real pressure, which is why we are investing more than £100m into the technologies and medicines of the future to tackle some of the biggest public health challenges facing our country.
This funding will improve outcomes for patients, relieve current pressures on the system and ensure we are among the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs. Most importantly it would also help save millions of pounds that would be spent on NHS patient care – for example by tackling obesity which costs the health service more than £6 billion a year.
It is also very welcome that the highly successful Vaccine Task Force, which has procured millions of life-saving vaccines in record time during the pandemic, has become a blueprint for how we can harness the best talent and expertise from around the world and drive investment in research and development.”
The research will focus on top public health priorities, as defined by the NHS:
- Mental Health: £40.2 million for Mental Health Research to develop and introduce digital technologies to support patients. This could include technology that allows patients to monitor their mental health at home and notify a doctor immediately if they need help. The funding will be spent in the Midlands and North to strengthen services and ensure people across the UK have access to support, helping to raise health across the country. With one in four adults affected by a mental illness, poor mental health costs the economy £118 billion a year
- Cancer: £22.5 million will go towards cancer research to develop new immunotherapy-based cancer therapies, including cancer vaccines, which target a patient’s specific cancer. The funding will also support the development of technologies that enable earlier and more effective cancer diagnosis. This will support progress towards the NHS’s long-term ambition to diagnose three quarters of cancers at stages 1 or 2 by 2028.
- Obesity: £20 million to trial how best to deliver new medicines and technologies to people living with obesity, particularly in disadvantaged communities across the UK. This will help new medicines coming to market – some of which have the potential to reduce a person’s weight by more than 20% – to better support people to achieve a healthy weight. The mission will explore how these medicines can be combined with cutting-edge technologies and digital tools to improve long-term health outcomes. Obesity costs the NHS £6.1 billion a year and helping people to lose weight and lead healthy lifestyles can lead to significant savings
- Addiction: £30.5m, including money provided through a collaboration with the Scottish Government, will be deployed to accelerate the development of new technologies to prevent overdose deaths across the UK. This could include wearable devices that can detect the emergence of a drug overdose and signal to first responders to prevent deaths, and to better support people with substance use disorders to manage and combat their addiction. The funding will also help grow research capacity and capabilities across the UK to better understand addiction and the most effective ways to treat it as a chronic healthcare condition.
“OLS’ investment in the mental health mission has the potential to be a game-changer. Bringing innovative, evidence-based technologies to address the challenges faced by people with mental ill health requires a large, cutting-edge research infrastructure and strong partnerships between industry, universities and the NHS. Whilst these exist Already in pockets across the UK, the mission’s scale and autonomy will accelerate progress in an area where the need is on a global scale.”
Professor Peter Jones is Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge and Chair of the Science Council at MQ
In line with the Vaccines Taskforce, the four healthcare functions will be led by an independent Head – an expert in the field – to accelerate the development and introduction of the latest treatments and technology into the NHS, as well as drive collaboration between partners. This will not only ensure better patient care, but also improve diagnostic accuracy and free up physician time, helping to tackle the backlog of COVID-19 and relieving pressure on health services.
“This solution-focused approach from OLS is very encouraging. Historically, only 3.9% of mental health research funding has focused on prevention, so I am very pleased that the mental health mission will focus on using technology to prevent symptoms as well as finding innovative new life-changing therapies.” “.
Dr. Shahzad Malik, President, MQ Mental Health Research and General Partner, Advent Life Sciences
Not only has the announcement been welcomed by research charities, including MQ, but also many people affected by mental illness have been frustrated by lack of investment in the area.
“The new mental health mission is very exciting. What we need now, more than ever, are solutions for the 1 in 4 of us affected by mental illness. I am really excited to see the focus on child and young people’s mental health and how we can use technology to manage and prevent symptoms. We seem to be getting ever closer to the golden age of mental health research and I’m excited to see what this new initiative can achieve.”
Asha Iqbal, mental health activist and founder of Generation Reform.
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