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Independent Board Members to promote research across NHS Wales

Two people look at a poster at a research event.

29 March 2023

Health boards and NHS organizations in Wales have appointed one of their non-executive directors to be the voice of research and development on their Boards, as part of a new initiative by Health and Care Research Wales.

Increasing the visibility of research and embedding it in all NHS services is essential to driving improvement, as well as ensuring that all patients have access to the latest treatments and high-quality evidence-based care, including prevention.

In March 2021, the four UK countries committed to a new 10-year vision for research – Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of Clinical Research Delivery in the UK  which sets out the ambition to create a first class clinical research environment in the UK.

As part of Wales' commitment to embedding research across the NHS, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, has asked all NHS organizations to nominate an Independent member on the Board to promote research as part of their wider portfolio of responsibilities .

Wales is the first country in the UK to introduce such an initiative.

The Independent members will work closely with the Executive Director responsible for research, as well as Research and Development directors in each organisation, to ensure that research is on the radar at Board level and that the profile of research is raised. among staff and patients across all health boards and NHS organisations.

Dr. Atherton said:

"I am very grateful to the Independent Members who have accepted this challenge and agreed to be a champion of research on the Boards of their organisation. As demonstrated during the pandemic, the role of research is critical in finding answers, and as we emerge from the pandemic, wider health and care research is needed to help us find innovative treatments on for the future and to meet the additional challenges that our population, and the health and care system, face."

The role of the Board's champion for Research and Development will include:

  • developing an understanding of the importance of research as a key driver for good health and social care services, supporting the promotion of all-Wales research campaigns, and
  • engage with the lead Executive Director and the Research and Development lead to ensure that local research activity is promoted and supported, monitored and reported effectively at Board level.

Professor Kieran Walshe, the Director of Health and Care Research for Wales, said:

“All NHS organizations have a significant role to play in facilitating a supportive person-centred environment by embedding research as part of all healthcare services. We know that NHS organisations that are active in research see better health outcomes, not just for those taking part in research, but for all patients. In addition, investment in research leads to economic benefits for the NHS which can support frontline services including workforce development and retention."

Champions of our Board

Professor Andrew Westell smiles. Professor Andrew Westell qualified in medicine from the University of Leeds, where he obtained his PhD in chemical synthesis in 1994. Following post-doctoral research at Loughborough University, he became a senior research fellow of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham, carrying out cancer drug discovery research pre-clinical leading to the identification of a new clinical candidate drug.

In 2006, Andrew moved to a position as a Senior Lecturer at the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University, becoming Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in 2016. He has continued his work to discover new candidate anti-cancer drugs targeting advanced diseases and resistant Andrew's recent collaborative work has led to new advanced drug candidates against a new cancer drug target called Bcl3, and work continues to progress this project into first patient trials targeting colorectal cancer and resistant and metastatic breast cancer. Other related research projects aim to develop new cancer diagnostic imaging molecules.

Other roles Andrew has undertaken include being Treasurer for the British Association for Cancer Research (2004-2010), and most recently, Dean of Research and Innovation for the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Cardiff University (2018 -2021). He also currently serves on the scientific committee of Prostate Cancer UK and chairs the Program Board for the Wales New Drugs and New Substances Identification Project, a new psychoactive project on behalf of Public Health Wales. During his academic career, he was the author/co-author of over one hundred and fifty publications in international scientific journals.

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