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Workplace MSK research consortium gets £2.2m renewed funding

Over 30 million working days are lost to MSK conditions each year

The National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, which aims to reduce the burden of work disability caused by musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, has been renewed for a further five years.

Medical researchers from the University of Southampton led the application, resulting in an award of £2.2m from Versus Arthritis and the Medical Research Council.

MSK conditions, such as low back pain, osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, gout and lupus, result in an estimated 30.6 million working days being lost each year.

The centre, established in 2014 with an initial investment of £1.4m over five years, is coordinated from the University of Southampton’s Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU), based at Southampton General Hospital.

The centre involves multidisciplinary collaboration with the universities of Aberdeen, Bath Spa, Keele, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford, and colleagues at Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and the Institute for Employment Studies.

The UK has the highest rates of new claims for disability of any of the Organisation of Economic and Commercial Development (OECD) countries, with the two most common causes of disability being MSK disorders and mental health conditions.

Over the last five years, the initial investment in the centre has enabled the MRC LEU to build collaborations and develop a critical mass of research skills and early career scientists. From the initial award, collaborators have leveraged an additional £5m for work and health research.

Professor Karen Walker-Bone, director of the centre, said people with MSK conditions want to work but often need support and suitable adjustments from employers.

“We have put forward an ambitious plan for research that will take place in healthcare settings, public health and workplaces over the next five years in order to better understand how to make differences in all these areas,” she added.