Sir Bob Burgess, Vice Chancellor, University of Leicester supported by Jo Wood, Assistant Registrar, University of Leicester attended the meeting to highlight and publicise the excellence of Leicester University and the research/training benefits and links with the Glenfield Heart Unit facilities.
The Vice Chancellor thanked the Committee for the opportunity to submit evidence and made the following comments:-
Ø The University had built up considerable achievements and expertise in research since 1974. This had led to a reputation and ethos which attracted high calibre people who wanted to work in a successful research environment.
Ø The work of the Cardiovascular Research Centre provided benefits to both the local and national provision of cardiovascular services.
Ø This had been further recognised when the Secretary for State had visited the Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit and had stated that the ‘centre cemented Glenfield’s reputation as a leading international heart hospital.’
Ø The University was judged as ‘internationally excellent’ in the rigorous 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. 95% of the submissions were judged to be of international standing and 55% of the submissions had been placed in the top two grades compared to 40% for Birmingham University.
Ø Considerable funds had been raised from external sources based upon the success of the research and the close working arrangements with Glenfield Unit. £13m had been raised in the last two years for the construction of the Cardiovascular Research Centre with approximately £6m being donated by local philanthropists.
Ø The University had recently secured £7m of investment through the van Geest Foundation and staff involved in the Cardiovascular Research Centre had independently secured £20m of funds in the last three years. The ability of the University to secure future investment and funding could be jeopardised if cardiovascular and ECMO services were lost at Glenfield as this would impact negatively on the current comprehensive cardiovascular service that had been built up over a long period of time. The ability to raise funds was dependent upon having a comprehensive range of services available and often local philanthropists donated generously because they or a family member had been treated at the Glenfield Hospital. This local connection would be lost if services transferred.
Ø The current paediatric surgery and ECMO made a substantial contribution to published work on trials and other work by staff in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ø Professor N Samani, Director Leicester NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease had originally trained at the University and had an international reputation. He had a support staff of 30 academics, 150 researchers as well as clerical, technical and manual staff. Any diminution of the services and opportunities currently available could have detrimental impacts upon these staff as well.
Ø Currently there are a number of Professors who were undertaking research of international recognition in the following fields:-
§ Genetic factors in heart disease;
§ Advances in controlling blood pressure;
§ Stents for coronary heart disease;
§ Diabetes prevention; and
§ Valve replacement surgery.
Ø The current reputation for research and the close working with the Glenfield Hospital attracted the appointment of high calibre consultants and many worked part time in research and part time in delivering clinical services in the hospital, which was to the mutual benefit of both institutions. Many consultants also held honorary positions at the University.
Following questions from members of the Committee, the Vice Chancellor commented that:
Ø Experts migrate from environments where they cannot pursue their research or where there is not a comprehensive range of services available. Transferring the paediatric congenital coronary care unit and the ECMO unit would make Leicester less attractive to experts.
Ø Research activity directly impacted upon clinical practice and skills. Skills developed in Leicester attracted national and international interest from specialists who visited the hospital to acquire those skills.
Ø It would be worth investigating whether monies raised locally were tied to local services.
The Vice Chancellor was thanked for his contribution to the meeting.