Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Research to open

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The UK’s first-ever specialist medical research centre to minimise the impact of scarring and improve the lives of Armed Forces personnel and civilians wounded in conflicts and terrorist attacks is to be established next year, it was announced in the Autumn Statement today.

The £4.5m Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Research will be based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB), and will lead a national programme of clinical, psychological and scientific research.

The three-year initiative, funded in part by £2.95 million LIBOR funding, was announced today by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, in his Autumn Statement.

An additional £1.6 million for the centre will be funded by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England, and The JP Moulton Charitable Foundation.

The new centre will bring together uniformed and civilian scientists and clinicians to spearhead the development of new treatments across the care cycle, from the point of injury through to rehabilitation – and place UHB at the centre of scar research.

National charity The Scar Free Foundation will direct the Centre’s research in partnership with UHB, and The CASEVAC Club – made up of wounded veterans from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brendan Eley, Chief Executive, The Scar Free Foundation said: “Today marks a major milestone in our goal of scar free healing.”

“Improving wound treatment and scar outcomes for those caught up in military or civilian conflict is our driving force behind this initiative, and we are hugely grateful for the support of HM Treasury.”

“The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound will have a clear benefit to military personnel as well as the general public, and is of urgent relevance within the context of increasing civilian terrorist and acid attacks.”

“Today the UK takes an emphatic step towards a scar free world.”

The Centre will investigate how the body heals and protects itself following the types of trauma that are likely in future conflicts and terrorist attacks, including chemical, burn, and blast injury.

By understanding the biological processes of scarring this research will, over time, deliver new treatments.

It will initially run two flagship research projects: the first will develop and undertake the “first-in-human” clinical trial of a new conflict-ready and transportable dressing which helps the skin heal with reduced scarring, led by the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

The second project, led by the Centre for Appearance Research, based at the University of the West of England, will pilot tailored psychosocial treatments to help seriously injured Armed Forces personnel, recruited from the CASEVAC Club, cope with life with an altered, scarred appearance.

The Centre for Conflict Wound Research will contribute significantly to the current, limited research into scarring.

Advances in military trauma care made during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will be sustained and built on for future conflicts and lead to improved treatment for victims of terrorist atrocities, at home and overseas, as well as contributing to better humanitarian medical aid.

Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are honoured to host The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and provide matched funding support for the Centre.”

“We are the home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and the sole provider of medical services to military personnel evacuated from overseas via the Military Aero Medical Evacuation service.”

“This unique environment, of embedded military and civilian care with defence personnel fully integrated with NHS staff to treat both military and civilian patients, means we are the ideal place to set up the Centre.”

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