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Press Release

Press release

Health research supports innovation and saves money in health service

7 December 2010

New report published by the Health Research Board demonstrates impacts from funded research. A new report published today by the Health Research Board (HRB) demonstrates the potential impact of HRB-funded research on people's health, health service efficiency and the economy. It shows the progress that is being made in health research, from medical discoveries and creating new devices and therapies, to innovating healthcare policy or practice and changing people's attitudes and behaviours around health.

According to Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB,

'Given the economic challenges that we face over the coming years, it is essential that health research demonstrates the contribution it can make; not only for people's health, but also in terms of driving innovation and efficiency in the health service and creating commercial opportunities that will benefit our economy'.

'This publication illustrates just some of the impacts that stem from our investments in health research. However, these findings must be applied in policy and practice if we are to reap the benefit of the new knowledge to drive change, reduce costs and still improve outcomes', he explains. 

'Overall, the commitment by the government to continued funding of research in these difficult economic times makes sense as the benefits, efficiencies, cost savings and business opportunities that can be achieved can make a significant contribution to health management and economic growth', he says.

The publication, A Picture of Health - a snapshot of HRB funded research 2010, captures just some of the achievements that flowed from more than 200 HRB-funded researchers, working across ten hospitals and ten third-level institutions who completed research projects in 2009.

The stories illustrate that Irish health research is making an impact locally and globally. A full listing is shown below but some examples include:

Cheese and yogurt could defeat hospital super bugs

One group of researchers in Univeristy College Cork and Teagasc discovered that bacteria which ferment products such as cheese and yoghurt release a range of an antibiotics, called bacteriocins, that can kill invading or competing bacteria.

The natural antibiotics actually stop superbugs from growing and early tests indicate that the bacteriocins are as good, if not better, than standard antibiotics. The team are using bioengineering techniques to make the bacteriocins even better killers of MRSA and other superbugs.

Better prescribing for patient safety

A new medication review tool called STOPP (Screening Tool of Older Persons' potentially inappropriate Prescriptions) and START (Screening Tool to Alert to Right Treatment) can reduce the prescription of unnecessary or potentially harmful drugs to older people when they are admitted to hospital.

Using the tool researchers at UCC shows that one in every three patients received at least one potentially harmful drug, while over 40% of patients were not receiving appropriate medication for common conditions including diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis.

The STOPP/START recommendations and criteria have now been implemented as an audit tool in several countries, resulting in significant improvements in prescribing quality. Clinical Support Information Systems who are commercialising the tool estimate that applied across 50 hospitals in Ireland at a cost of ?14 million, the approach could reap savings of up to ?180 million in unnecessary prescription costs as well as reduce hospital costs.

Bye bye bed sores

Rotating patients with bed sores at a 30 degree tilt instead of a 90 degree rotation can reduce bedsores four-fold, save time and reduce costs.

Dr Zena Moore, a HRB research fellow at the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, has shown that applying this simple change to standard nursing practice in just the 12 hospitals where the research was conducted would generate estimated savings of ?250,000 through a reduction in staffing costs and wound dressing alone.

New training programme improves stroke survivors' outcomes

Additional daily exercise routines in addition to routine therapy significantly improve survivors' walking ability, balance, confidence and social participation.

Dr Emma Stokes and her team at Trinity developed a short exercise routine to be delivered by friends and family of people who survived acute stroke.

Simply participating in this exercise programme and keeping an exercise diary lead to better outcomes for patients with no additional pressure or cost to the health system.

Killing germs in healthcare settings

Targeted pulses of UV light could be used to disinfect and sterilise medical instruments, devices and surfaces. Researchers in Athlone Institute of Technology and NUI, Galway, lead by Dr Neil Rowan, have shown that the approach is particularly effective in killing strains of MRSA.

The full list of stories includes:
Creating new devices and therapies
  • New device targets cancer tumours
  • Killing germs in healthcare settings
  • Making travel safer for wheelchair occupants
Changing attitudes and behaviours around health
  • Evaluation of an alcohol programme in a sporting setting: a controlled trial
  • Children's obesity linked to mothers
  • Ecstasy and caffeine prove lethal combination
  • Take control of your diabetes
  • Alcohol leads to unsafe sex?how do we change this?
  • What, no teeth?
Innovating health care policy and practice
  • Stroke patients benefit from increased exercise
  • Placenta key to iodine supply in pregnancy
  • Managing warfarin yourself
  • Improving awareness after brain injury
  • Better prescribing for patient safety
  • Cancer map of Ireland
  • Bye-bye bed sores
  • Artificial limbs: How to get the most out of them
  • Power of positive support
  • MMR uptake affected by social class and alternative medicine
Promising discoveries and potential treatments / therapies
  • Changing the way we think about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism
  • Balloons deliver genes to tackle rare disorders
  • Asthma research leads to MRSA finding
  • New insights into a woman's heart
  • Protecting against a dangerous superbug
  • Cheese and yoghurt could defeat hospital superbugs
  • Malaria parasite could be 'starved' to death by new treatment
  • Obesity link to cancer risk
Developing research within the health system -reviewing progress
  • Clinical research facilities
  • Developing a robust clinical research network - ICRIN
  • Cancer clinical trials
  • Perinatal Ireland

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey(at)



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