In celebration of the National Health Service turning 70 years old on 5 July 2018, we've been exploring the many ways we work in partnership with the NHS through education and research.
Our history of improving healthcare
Barts and The London has always been at the forefront of medical education. Founded in 1123 under King Henry I, St Bartholomew's Hospital is the oldest hospital site in Britain and still hosts much of our teaching and research.
In 1785, the pioneering surgeon Sir William Blizard founded England’s first hospital-based medical school at The London Hospital in Whitechapel, offering a new kind of medical education that taught theory as well as clinical skills.
Meanwhile, over in West Smithfield, the popularity of lectures given by John Abernethy led to a lecture theatre being built by St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1791, laying the foundations of the Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital.
How do medical schools work with the NHS?
Professor Steve Thornton, Vice Principal (Health), takes part in a Q & A to explain how we work alongside the NHS.
“One of the crucial roles we undertake is providing the skills and workforce for the NHS,” he says. “In terms of education, we and the NHS help provide doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals with the knowledge they need to give high quality care.”
Speaking more broadly about the NHS, he adds: “The NHS has made an incredible difference to patient care… [It] is owned by everyone, for everyone, and is just an amazing organisation which is the envy of the world.”
Driving changes in public health
In addition to providing vital health advice to the public, they also advise the UK government and public bodies to encourage swift and evidence-based policy changes for improving people’s health.
Based in the heart of London's East End, which is characterised by a large and diverse population with complex health needs, we’re uniquely placed to deliver world-leading research and education that influences local, national and global public health.
Developing future treatments
Barts and The London hosts a number of clinical trial units that have been instrumental in bringing new drugs to clinics as efficiently and safely as possible.
Only recently, we led a groundbreaking gene therapy trial in partnership with Barts Health NHS Trust which appears to have cured haemophilia in several patients. The results have been described as ‘transformational’ by experts and we are now setting up the next wave of clinical trials across the world.
Our clinical trial work is regularly supported by the National Institute for Health Research, working closely with partner NHS trusts and hospitals across the UK.
Helping the NHS screen for cancer
We have regularly provided input into NHS cancer screening programmes. In 1995, our research recommended including a second view in mammography to increase breast cancer detection. The Department of Health then immediately took up the advice and by 2004, two-view mammography was used at all screens. As a result, around 2,500 additional women per year have a breast cancer detected early on the NHS.
We also worked with the NHS on raising the recommended age of first cervical cancer screening, resulting in an estimated 8,500 unnecessary surgical treatments being avoided and an annual saving to the NHS of £17.5 million. Many other countries, including the USA, have since followed the UK’s example.
The science of saving lives in A&E
Trauma is responsible for a quarter of all deaths in people under the age of 55, with over 20,000 people in the UK dying from injuries every year.
Working alongside the Royal London Hospital, our Centre for Trauma Sciences is run by world-leading trauma surgeons and carries out research into the critical time window immediately after major injury.
Major discoveries from the Centre include several new insights into why patients bleed to death after severe injury. This work has led to 250-300 per cent improved survival in massively bleeding trauma patients within NHS Major Trauma Centres.
Working with GPs to improve primary care
Our researchers have been supporting GPs in challenging environments for over 20 years. The team works across all seven boroughs of North East London, covering a population of two million people served by 250 general practices.
Their work has led to dramatic improvements in blood pressure control, saving 500 patients from a heart attack or stroke over the last five years.
The team is also developing new IT tools to improve electronic health records for major health conditions including diabetes and mental illness, and supporting ‘big data’ initiatives to link GP and hospital records to create an enhanced clinical record.
Building new research centres
Working side by side with Barts Health NHS Trust at the site of St Bartholomew's Hospital, we recently established a ‘one stop’ integrated discovery science and treatment centre for heart disease in the heart of London.
The new National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre is available to the 80,000 patients treated for heart disease at our Barts Heart Centre – one of Europe’s largest cardiovascular centres.
World-leading experts are focusing on inherited heart disease to address an unmet clinical need and will be developing and testing new medical devices that will improve and save lives.
Improving access to medical education
Our Widening Participation programmes provide more equitable opportunities for school children to study medicine, helping to diversify the NHS’s future workforce.
We run summer schools and other activities to give students a taste of what it’s like to train to be a doctor, which are targeted at those who might be eligible for free school meals or living in local authority care.
Our first year MBBS student Shraya Pandya took part in our Bridge The Gap programme when she was at school: “The opportunity I had to take part in these programmes was instrumental in my decision to study Medicine. The programmes are so important for giving people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to become doctors.”