In 2017, the University of Aberdeen won the highest national honour for a UK university – the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. It was awarded in recognition of the University’s world-leading research into health services over the last 40 years.
Two flagship research units at the University – the Health Services Research Unit and the Health Economics Research Unit – pioneered the combination of economic and clinical research in order to assess which medical treatments are effective for use in the NHS.
This work has changed millions of lives all over the world. For example, it provided the underpinning evidence for the introduction of robotic surgery for prostate cancer. Previously, the balance of potential harms and benefits was unknown. University of Aberdeen research demonstrated that robotic surgery was beneficial resulting in the purchase of surgical robots across the UK. It also transformed nationwide antibiotic prescribing in general dental practice – producing a 7% reduction in annual antibiotic prescribing compared to usual practice.
The University’s work also led to the recommendation that women should not receive multiple embryos when undergoing IVF treatment. Previously, several embryos were transferred in order to maximise the chances of success. However, this led to multiple births and serious risks to the mother and children. Researchers demonstrated that the chances of success were not reduced when only one embryo was transferred. This is now accepted practice worldwide.
The University of Aberdeen conducted the research and economic modelling which underpinned the ban on smoking in public places in Scotland. Its predictions proved correct, with subsequent studies showing substantial declines in childhood asthma, pregnancy complications and heart problems.
In all, researchers in these two units conducted more than 1000 studies, involving 46,000 participants from 1,500 places worldwide. Their work began at a time when there was an explosion of new treatments. The results have changed clinical practice, government policy and legislation, and academic studies.
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