HRH The Duke of Sussex visits the world's first conflict wound research centre

HRH The Duke of Sussex met with the University of Birmingham team developing new treatments to reduce scarring

HRH The Duke of Sussex met scientists and clinical experts from the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust during a visit to the world’s first specialist military and civilian wound research centre.

His Royal Highness visited the Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research, a ground-breaking national facility based at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which aims to minimise the psychological and physical impact of scarring and limb loss among Armed Forces personnel injured in service and civilians wounded in terrorist attacks.

The Duke met with the University of Birmingham team behind one of the Centre’s flagship research projects, which is developing new treatments to reduce scarring. The treatments, being developed by scientists at the University’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, include a laser therapy to correct historic scars and a pro-healing protein called Decorin being developed within a new biomaterial gel for use as an anti-scarring dressing.

His Royal Highness observed veterans, seriously injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, taking part in a workshop that is part of the Centre’s project piloting tailored psychosocial treatments to help them cope with life with an altered and scarred appearance.

Those taking part in the study have been recruited through The CASEVAC Club, which represents injured veterans, and the research is being carried out in partnership with the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

Dr David Rosser, Chief Executive, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust has a long and proud history of collaboration between both military and NHS clinicians and patients. This combined experience of treating both civilian trauma patients and injured personnel has led to the development of pioneering surgical techniques in the management of ballistic, blast and burns trauma, including bespoke surgical solutions for previously unseen injuries.

“To further this work through research will leave a lasting legacy in the improved rehabilitation of our most seriously injured patients.”

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, was among those to welcome His Royal Highness to the Centre today. He said: “We have a long and proud history of collaborating with partners to support life changing research and our work with the Scar Free Foundation and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust sees us combine our expertise with the goal of achieving scar free healing within a generation. I was delighted to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex today to see our crucial work in this area first hand.”

Brendan Eley, Chief Executive of the Scar Free Foundation, said: “Scarring not only has a lasting physical effect, but can have a serious emotional impact long after the wounds themselves have healed.

“The visible changes in appearance caused by conflict injuries that result in looking ‘different’ can be distressing for military personnel and their families.

“With the help of the people who have experienced this kind of life changing injury we can learn what support is needed by those affected, and develop tailored interventions for the armed forces community, an important part of our goal to deliver scar free healing within a generation.”

Ends

For more information please contact Health Sciences Communications Manager Emma McKinney at the University of Birmingham Press Office on tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681, out of hours on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The Scar Free Centre for Conflict Wound Research was officially opened by the Scar Free Foundation’s patron, the Countess of Wessex, in November 2018. It has been established in partnership with the University of Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, and The CASEVAC injured veterans club. The centre is closely integrated with a wider network of academic and clinical institutions in the UK and beyond to ensure that the work is inclusive and at the forefront of scarring research. Research undertaken at The Scar Free Foundation centre will cost £4.8 million over three years. This is being funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds of £3 million – the largest grant announced in the final round of LIBOR funding – alongside an additional £1.8 million from the Foundation’s partners, including the Ana Leaf Foundation and JP Moulton Charitable Foundation. 
  • The Scar Free Foundation is a medical research charity, chaired by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh (former National Medical Director of NHS England), whose mission is to achieve scar free healing within a generation and transform the lives of those affected by disfiguring conditions. Founded in 1999 as the Healing Foundation, it has supported over £20 million of life changing research into wound healing and reconstructive surgery. The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research forms part of the Foundation’s national, Scar Free Strategy aimed at delivering new scar free treatments within a generation. This programme will be supported by its £24 million Scar Free Appeal, Chaired by Lord James Bethell.
  • The CASEVAC Club, which was set up in 2017 with initial seed funding from The Royal Foundation, is an organisation set up by and for armed forces personnel wounded in recent conflicts. The Club, based on The Guinea Pig Club, aims to assist in the advancement of medical science and treatments for all, help others experiencing traumatic injury and provide wounded personnel with a close-knit community.
  • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham hosts the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) and has, since 2001 been the primary receiving hospital for all military patients that are injured overseas. This combined experience of treating trauma patients and military casualties has led to the development of pioneering surgical techniques in the management of ballistic and blast injuries, including bespoke surgical solutions for previously unseen injuries.