New research centre in Birmingham

Health experts have heralded the launch of a ground-breaking research centre in Birmingham that will enable medical techniques employed on the battlefield to be used on NHS patients.

The institute, the first of its type in the world, will allow military and civilian trauma surgeons and scientists to share expertise and research.

It is hoped that their work at the newly opened National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) for surgical reconstruction and microbiology, will boost survival rates of those suffering severe trauma in both civilian and military life.

Around 20,000 people suffer from serious trauma injuries each year, typically from car or motorbike crashes. The expertise gained at the institute could also prove vital when treating victims of terrorism attacks in the UK.

The centre is based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where all injured service personnel are treated after being evacuated from Afghanistan. Work will focus on resuscitation techniques, surgical care after severe injury and fighting wound infections.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, director-general of research and development at the Department of Health, said: "It is the first time anyone in the world has put together the NHS, the general care system, with the military and a really first class university in the interests of improving outcomes for trauma patients."

Military trauma injuries tend to be different from civilian trauma injuries as they are primarily blast wounds. Battlefield surgeons must also cope with wound contamination caused by dirt being forced into injuries. As a result, military surgeons have built up a reputation for pioneering trauma care.

Some of the techniques developed have already been picked up by the NHS including the use of tourniquets on patients with bleeding and haemorrhage injuries. NHS patients may also be provided with a breakthrough clotting drug, previously only available to the military.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The new NIHR centre will fund world-leading research to help people recover better and faster from severe injuries. There have already been significant developments in advanced emergency treatment and transportation but more medical research is needed.

"This investment will help to strengthen the response of health and emergency services to major disasters such as road traffic accidents and terrorist attacks in the future."