Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a £120 million investment in a health research programme designed to help encourage action against some of the country's most pressing healthcare challenges.

It is hoped the funds will fuel research that will ultimately improve patient care, through the development of new treatments to tackle the biggest killer diseases or improving the quality of care for patients with long-term conditions, for example.

Researchers will be able to pitch their ideas and bid for a slice of the funds through the National Institute for Health Research Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRCs) scheme, which first came on the scene in 2008 to help facilitate high quality health research centred on the needs of patients and support the translation of evidence into NHS practice.

There have already been a stream of documented successes under the programme, such as pioneering research that discovered the risk of death in patients with severe bleeding was reduced by up to 30% if the blood clotting tranexamic acid is administered within three hours, potentially saving 400 lives a year in the UK.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Health, noted that the collaborations "will conduct the very highest quality research across universities, the NHS and in other relevant organisations," and are "therefore ideally placed to play a key role in ensuring that advances in treatments for a wide variety of diseases reach our patients, so that thousands of people will benefit right across the country.” 

According to the government, the new investment will help to secure the National Health Service as a world leader in health research as well has help patients get access to the best care possible.

The Ethical Medicines Industry Group has welcomed the move, as it "will provide an additional boost to the UK research capability and highlights the critical importance of the life sciences industry to the economy and, importantly, to patients," according to its chairman Leslie Galloway.