Experts come together to push forward innovation in clinical rehabilitation

Tuesday, 14 July 2020
A consortium of experts at the National Rehabilitation Centre will pioneer new techniques and technologies for the rehabilitation of the seriously ill and injured.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of effective rehabilitation post serious illness or injury – saving lives is only one part of an overall care journey which necessarily needs good rehabilitation if a patient is to stand a chance of returning to their former selves.

A new partnership of academic experts from across the UK will spearhead efforts to maximise innovation and collective knowledge at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC).  This new centre of excellence being planned near Loughborough will be co-located with the specialist centre for Armed Forces rehabilitation which opened in 2018, replacing the former MoD facility at Headley Court in Surrey.  The site is the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate.

The University of Nottingham and Loughborough University, joined by a network of 24 other education and research establishments from across the UK, are leading the work. 

Miriam Duffy, NRC Programme Director, said: “The impact of COVID-19 highlights the criticality of having a world-class R&D and innovation capability to enable the very best treatments and care.  There has always been a need for good clinical rehabilitation and this newly-formed partnership will help to engineer excellence in ways which have never been possible before and are more relevant now than ever.  We are talking about integrating research, education, training and innovation in a purpose-planned new facility which also delivers direct patient care.  The opportunities to raise the bar and make a meaningful difference across clinical rehabilitation care are simply tremendous.”

To set up the partnership, the NRC invited bids and responses were received from all over the UK.  Following the strength of the submissions, it was agreed that Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham would collaborate and lead the partnership together – allowing the NRC to benefit from their complementary specialisms.

Both Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham are pre-eminent and world-leaders in this field.

The partners will be working with the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which is the NHS sponsor for the NRC and future provider of clinical services at the NRC, to drive up standards in research, education and clinical care.  Getting patients and clinicians to set research priorities and work with industrial partners will be a great advantage of this clinical academic partnership.

The potential for innovation is substantial with the partnership ambitious to push forward real improvements to clinical care, covering 3D printing of prostheses through to wearable technologies and medical devices to enable the development of cutting-edge treatments and assistive technologies, ultimately aiming to tackle future healthcare challenges.

Pip Logan, Professor of Rehabilitation Research at the University of Nottingham

Pip Logan, Professor of Rehabilitation Research at the University of Nottingham, said: “The University of Nottingham is extremely pleased and excited to be co-leading the academic consortium for the NRC.  Having truly integrated clinical services, research and innovation under one roof for rehabilitation will make this the place to come for treatment, to undertake research and to gain world-class training.  The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how rehabilitation will be essential to the recovery of deconditioned patients for many years.  From today, this new partnership will start to undertake joint rehabilitation research on people recovering from COVID-19.”

Professor Mark Lewis, Dean of Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences said: “We are excited to be co-leading this consortium – the world-leading research and education expertise we have will be used to transform education and training within rehabilitation and provide patient health benefits through advanced rehabilitation pathways and techniques.”

The target is for the National Rehabilitation Centre to open in 2024 (subject to formal adoption of the business case at the end of this year which is currently being developed).

The first tasks for the consortium are to now develop a research strategy for rehabilitation together with a long-term workforce plan for the NRC. 

The idea for a National Rehabilitation Centre facility was fundamental to the concept of the DNRC programme from the outset.  The COVID-19 pandemic has simply added to the relevance and rationale for investing in creating a stronger overall capability in this important area of clinical care.

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About the National Rehabilitation Centre

The idea for a National Rehabilitation Centre facility was fundamental to the concept of the DNRC programme from the outset.

Sharing expertise and facilities to mutual benefit between Defence medicine and the NHS is acknowledged to be a way to improve the quality of outcomes for people who have experienced serious injury and would benefit from sophisticated clinical rehabilitation.

Getting people back to fitness and function following serious injury is a major policy area in Government.  It is acknowledged that return to work rates for people experiencing major trauma and serious injury in England lag behind rates achieved in other European countries as well as rates achieved in the Armed Forces.

There is planning permission for the National Rehabilitation Centre on a site 400m to the west of the Defence facility on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate.

Led by NHS sponsor, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, a programme of engagement is now taking place to consult on how rehabilitation services might be reconfigured in order to benefit from the opportunity presented by the National facility.  This important work is explained in the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation Services’ paper published here. 

A formal public consultation led by a regional Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) team is anticipated to take place this summer, informing the development of the overall business case for the NRC. 

This facility would be something entirely new – a place where patients, innovation, expertise and the physical space combine to push boundaries beyond that achieved in the field of clinical rehabilitation to date.  It should be viewed as a start-up and a flagship project in technology terms in the NHS transformation programme now underway.  The intention is that it will pave the way for similar clinical centres across NHS England. 

Under one roof it will: treat patients; train and educate significant numbers of staff in this field; and integrate industry, research and innovation in rehab to discover new practical solutions for patients.  It is also clear that there will be international dimensions to the work of the NRC.

In the October 2018 Budget, Government earmarked £70M the cover the construction cost of the patient care element – the other 2 elements of education and training and research and development will be sourced elsewhere. 

Co-located and working together, the Defence facility and the NHS (National) facility would share expertise, drive up standards, progress valuable research and potentially enable the field of rehabilitation medicine to progress to a whole new level. 

Key to the DNRC Programme ambition is that the whole would achieve far more than the sum of the parts.

More information at

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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