The Department of Health has awarded six university/NHS trust partnerships Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) status for a five-year term, under a drive accelerate patient access to healthcare innovation.

Five of the centres - Cambridge University Health Partners, Imperial College, King’s Health Partners, Manchester AHSC and UCL Partners - were already awarded AHSC status in the first competition back in 2009, and will from next year be joined by newcomer Oxford AHSC (OxAHSC's).

The Centres, said to represent partnerships between “world-class” universities and leading NHS organisations, will work to research new treatments and improve health education and patient care, bringing scientific discoveries "from the lab to the ward", as well as drive economic growth through partnerships with industry.

OxAHSC's - comprised of Oxford University, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Oxford Brookes University - will be focusing on six core themes which, it says, are central to a sustainable and successful healthcare system.

These are: big data, to deliver the digital medicine revolution; building novel NHS, university and industry relationships; modulating the immune response for patient benefit; managing the chronic disease epidemic; emerging infections and antimicrobial resistance; cognitive health: and maintaining cognitive function in health and disease.

The OxAHSC is embedded within the recently designated Oxford Academic Health Science Network, which will "enable the swift uptake, adoption and translation of research outcomes, innovations and improvements in healthcare practice across this wider geography," it said.

Imperial College AHSC - a partnership between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London, that was the first Centre to be given the green light back in 2007 - said it plans to continue in its pursuit of "world-class education, innovation and patient care" by addressing common causes of morbidity and mortality, such as obesity, diabetes and antibiotic resistance, as well as rarer diseases. 

Health Minister Lord Howe said that the awards, which are based on the recommendations of an international team of experts, "will ensure that England continues to be at the forefront of medical research and treatment".