Why do we need the centre and what does it do?

Over the past six years the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research centre (SRMRC) has developed a unique and cohesive multi-disciplinary environment for trauma research.

The centre is joint-funded by the National Institute for Health Research and the Ministry of Defence with match funding from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham.

This is a place where basic scientists work alongside clinicians in areas including immunology, endocrinology, microbiology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering and computer engineering.

The centre has seen great success to date including:

  • Establishing the first UK 24/7 research nurse led service to recruit to trauma trials. This service supports trauma, burns and critical care studies and benefits from being based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, a major trauma centre.
  • The biomarker studies being run by the centre have been progressing rapidly along the translational pipeline in collaboration with industry for point-of-care tests. Such tests include a bedside test for sepsis and a pitch-side, pre-hospital test for mild and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). These tests will work to benefit both military personnel and civilians alike.
  • The implementation of a new cross-cutting theme in early phase trial design delivered by D3B. They support three of our pilot studies and have assisted in specific grant applications, one such successful application being an MRC grant award for TBI.
  • The implementation of a second cross-cutting theme, Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs), being incorporated into trial design. The PROs team have been working with the centre’s Patient and Public Involvement in Research (PPIR) group as well as members of the team to scope what PROs are important and in which area.
  • The centre has invested in training future academic and clinical leaders. It continues to fund an ongoing cohort of clinical and non-clinical MSc and PhD students in the centre. In 2014 Professor Toni Belli, Director of the SRMRC, and Dr Zubair Ahmed established a new MSc Trauma Sciences in Birmingham which has a steady intake of 12 students per year from a variety of clinical professionals and scientists from military and civilian background.

Coming into phase 2 of the centre the studies have all been restructured into the following overarching areas:

  • Immediate Response to Injury – the centre is unique in that it can collect blood within the first hour of injury thanks to its partnership with paramedics from the West Midlands. One such study in this area is called Golden Hour which looks at what happens to the immune system in that crucial first hour after injury.
  • Diagnosis and Triage – developing novel tools and techniques in order to help better diagnose trauma injury and improving patient outcome. The RECOS and the further SCRUM studies are great examples as they look at the effects of repetitive concussion in sport and have, as a result, developed a prototype device to diagnose concussion at the pitch side using only spit.
  • Novel Treatment to Improve Patient Outcome – using that learned so far to translate research into novel treatments such as the Acetic Acid study intends to use a heavily diluted version of vinegar to aid wound healing in burns patients.
  • Reconstruction and Re-enablement – novel ways to reconstruct tissue and re-enable patients to the road to recovery. ICU Chat is a great example of this as it is a study helping patients in the Intensive Care Unit with a tracheostomy to continue to communicate enabling them to keep staff updated as to what they need as well as talking to friends and family. All of which is hoped will improve patient outcomes.

The centre also benefits from its own Patient and Public Involvement in Research (PPIR) group. This is made up of former patients who have either suffered a trauma or burn injury or have spent time in critical care as well as carers and members of the public. Their role is to provide feedback on any and all aspects of research from helping in the design of patient information sheets through to being a co-applicant on a grant bid.

Find more information on our PPIR group, officially called the Accident, Burns and Critical Care (ABC) Group.

The NIHR SRMRC strives to improve the outcome of trauma patients by researching subjects that, if successful, will drastically improve patient outcome to not just those in England or indeed in the UK but worldwide. The novel treatments and tools set to come out of this unique centre have the potential to change the way certain forms of trauma injury are treated and improve the outcome of those patients.