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Health and Care

With a strong track record in health research and a major provider of healthcare practitioners to UK and global healthcare industries our academic vision seeks  to develop new models of health care delivery, health promotion and technology enabled treatment models.

This focus will reduce the burden of avoidable illness, reduce health inequalities and enhance the effectiveness of health and care interventions.

See examples of our global impact in health and care >>


bottles lined up in a laboratory

New anti-ageing skincare products

The very latest skin-care products on the shelves from the UK's premier skincare range No7 - are underpinned with ground-breaking scientific research from Bradford.

The University’s Centre for Skin Sciences has been working to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the body’s production of melanin – the pigment that causes our skin to tan and freckles to appear when it’s sunny. The over-production of melanin or hyperpigmentation also causes age spots (also known as liver spots) to appear as we grow older and consumers spend millions on cosmetic products to try to even out skin tone in ageing skin.

Within a raft of findings which shed new light on the skin pigmentation process, Bradford researchers discovered  that tiny cellular tubes, called filopodia were instrumental in the transfer of melanin between human skin cells and were able to show how this happens.

Woman having serum applied to her face

Working with Alliance-Boots, the Bradford team has been able to use their research findings knowledge to test and measure the success of a range of natural plant extracts that could help to regulate and suppress the skin’s production of melanin. This work has enabled Alliance-Boots to develop new products in its leading No7 anti-aging serum range which can balance uneven skin tone and combat age spots – all backed with robust peer-reviewed research evidence from Bradford.

The new No7 products were launched in the UK in April 2012, and have since been launched in the US, Thailand and Finland.

So successful has the collaboration been, that Alliance-Boots and the Centre for Skin Sciences have entered into a partnership agreement to continue working together on future projects.

A clear vision to reduce falls

Research at the University of Bradford into the link between older people's vision and their likelihood of falling has led to new guidelines for optometrists and a change in the way spectacles are prescribed for older people at risk.

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in older people, with around a third of people aged over 65 and half of those over 80 falling at least once a year. Treating elderly people following falls is estimated to cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion per year.

The Bradford team of vision scientists assessed how the kind of spectacles worn by elderly people affected the way they walked up and down stairs – which is when many falls take place. They found that people with single vision lenses adapted the way they walked to negotiate stairs more safely than those with bi- or varifocal lenses, even when they’d been wearing those type of glasses for many years.

Elderly man having glasses fitted

The team also discovered the answer to an apparent paradox: although the link between falls and poor vision is well-established, when elderly people undergo cataract surgery or get new glasses to correct their vision, the number of falls may not improve and in some cases may actually increase. The Bradford researchers suggested that it is the sudden change in magnification caused by spectacles that causes the problem, and as a result optometrists are now recommended to make incremental changes in some prescriptions rather than correct vision in one big step.

The team’s findings have been incorporated into guidelines produced by the College of Optometrists and the British Geriatrics Society and endorsed by Age UK and the Royal College of General Practitioners. Visual impairment is also now included in NICE guidelines for the assessment and prevention of falls for older people. The findings formed part of a Which? Campaign, reported widely in the media, highlighting the unsafe practice of buying varifocals and bifocals online and the problems associated with higher-powered ready readers.

Using old drugs for new cancer treatments

A new, more effective treatment for bladder cancer will soon be available to patients, thanks to research at the University of Bradford. The drug, Apaziquone, has been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce recurrence of the disease.

Apaziquone was first developed in the 1990s as a treatment for a range of cancers, but then abandoned as it was not sufficiently effective. However, a team from the University of Bradford’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics took a second look at the drug, to see why it hadn’t worked as expected. They discovered that the drug was quickly destroyed in the patient’s bloodstream and didn’t easily penetrate tumour tissue. Far from rejecting the drug as a result, they realised that this made it ideal for treating bladder cancer.

students working in a pharmacy

Bladder cancer is the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK, and treatment for the majority of cases is surgery, followed by chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drug is administered directly into the bladder, rather than into the bloodstream. Using Apaziquone in this way would ensure it wasn’t destroyed before it could reach the tumour, giving it a chance to work to its full potential.

An initial trial was carried out in Bradford, which showed that the drug worked as the team expected, leading to more extensive trials in Europe and America. Typically, within five years of treatment, around 80% of patients with bladder cancer have a recurrence of the disease. Of those treated with Apaziquone, only 49.5% have seen the disease return after two years.

The success of the trials and the reduction in recurrence rates has led to the drug being awarded ‘fast track’ status by the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, a process designed to speed up the development and approval of drugs for treating serious diseases. Further clinical trials are underway, and it is hoped the drug will soon be available widely for use with patients.

Reducing medication errors in children's hospices

A toolkit for helping to reduce medication errors in children's hospices has been developed by Bradford researchers in health Management, Quality and Safety and widely adopted across the UK.

The toolkit enables hospice managers to review processes and implement improvements that ensure that medicines safety is a priority.

Around 8,000 children receive care within the UK's hospice system and many of them have complex needs and medication regimes. The Bradford Medicines Management Team have many years’ of experience investigating medication error management: previous research, funded by the Department of Health, led to the design of a novel medication error reporting scheme. Other research within the team has focused on the adult hospice system, identifying the impact on staff and their managers of reporting errors.

other holding childs hand in hospital bed

The need for the toolkit was identified by Children’s Hospices UK, now called Together for Short Lives, and its development was funded by the Department of Health. It focuses on key areas of risk, enabling hospice staff to identify the weak points in systems and processes. Advice on medicines regulation is included, as well as on the competencies needed to administer medication regimes. There are also guidelines on medicines reconciliation and transcribing, non-medical prescribing and error reporting.

Since its publication in 2011, 49 hospices across the UK have adopted the toolkit. Staff within these organisations have participated in a cultural change in which they now feel encouraged and supported in reporting errors and near misses. In many organisations the number of reported incidents within hospices and dispensing errors from NHS Trusts has increased, but not the number of incidents in which harm has been caused.

Regular reviews of all reported mistakes and the circumstances in which they were made have led to significant reductions in medication errors from both hospice staff and from NHS Trusts. These improvements mean a reduced risk to the children in these organisations’ care.

Improving dementia care worldwide

World-leading research from the University of Bradford has transformed policy and practice in dementia care, improving the quality of life for people with dementia across the world. Researchers from Bradford Dementia Group were the first to develop a model of person-centred care (PCC) for people with dementia, which focuses on understanding the perspective of the patient and helping them live better quality lives with their condition.

Using the PCC model, the Bradford researchers created a tool, which can be used to assess how well care is being provided and show how care can be improved. This tool – known as Dementia Care Mapping (DCM) – has been shown in trials to reduce falls and agitation amongst dementia patients and now forms part of NICE guidelines on supporting people with dementia.

elderly ladys hands being held by younger person

DCM is also used in examples of good practice by the Department of Health and is recommended by the National Audit Office as an effective measure of quality of life for people with dementia. The Bradford researchers also created a shorter version of the tool – called the Short Observational Framework for Inspection (SOFI) – which is used by the Care Quality Commission in their inspections of UK care homes, to assess the quality of care.

The Bradford Dementia Group also provide training in the use of DCM to care home staff both in the UK and abroad. Over 10,000 care home staff have now been trained to use the tool in the UK, and the training has also been delivered to over 3,000 care home workers in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore and Switzerland.

Health services accessible to all

Access to, and engagement with, health services for disadvantaged communities has been improved - thanks to a research framework developed at Bradford.

The capabilities framework aims to understand and address equality, diversity and inclusion issues as viewed by health organisations when formulating policy and practice. The framework has been adopted by a range of organisations leading to improved community health and wellbeing.

Researchers from the School of Management worked with a national social research think tank which led to an on-going collaboration between the researchers, the NHS, a social enterprise and the think tank. By focusing on community health issues, these organisations have used the framework to enhance equality, fairness and quality of life through the redesign of these services.

Wheelchair in a hospital corridor

The researchers found that, where community-level concerns were given a clearer and relevant voice, the solutions were more appropriate and effective - leading to increased engagement. For example, the participating Primary Care Trust (PCT), began using community nurses to target those least likely to seek healthcare despite being the most likely to need interventions to prevent further ill-health. This resulted in a reduction of health inequalities and improved community health.

The participating social enterprise provides health care services to disadvantaged communities, new migrants and marginalised members of society. Adoption of the capabilities framework led to designated health trainers working with communities to offer health advice, work with individuals to develop tailored plans and connect with those who had previously failed to access the health service. Some of these previously marginalised individuals have now become health trainers themselves; this improved engagement with the community has led to reductions in smoking and obesity, which in turn will reduce the demand for health services whilst increasing life skills and economic prospects.