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HRH THE DUKE OF SUSSEX VISITS THE WORLD’S FIRST CONFLICT WOUND RESEARCH CENTRE

HRH The Duke of Sussex will visit the world’s first specialist military and civilian wound research centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Monday 4th March, where he will meet armed forces’ veterans and scientific and clinical experts spearheading new treatments. The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research is a ground-breaking national facility. Its main aim is to minimise the psychological and physical impact of scarring and limb loss among armed forces personnel injured in service and civilians wounded in terrorist attacks. 

Scarring can have a significant long-term physical and psychological impact on survivors of conflict. More than 6,000 members of the British armed forces have been seriously injured or scarred in recent conflicts.* The new centre will support the creation of bespoke psychological interventions to help veterans and their families adjust to living with an altered appearance such as physical scarring (anywhere on the body) or limb loss.

The centre will pilot tailored psychological treatments to help seriously injured armed forces personnel cope with life with an altered, scarred appearance. This study, run in partnership with the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, called ‘UNITS’ (Understanding Needs and Interventions for the Treatment of Scarring), will involve veterans from recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruited through the CASEVAC Club (whose membership is solely made up of veterans wounded in combat). The CASEVAC Club was set up in 2017 with initial seed funding from The Royal Foundation.

The UNITS study will recruit veterans, serving military personnel and their families to better understand and address the psychological needs of those affected by appearancealtering conflict wounds. More than 460 people will take part in the research over the next three years. Armed forces personnel and their families interested in participating in the psychological study can email unitsstudy@uwe.ac.uk to get involved.

His Royal Highness will observe a UNITS study workshop with veterans and will have the opportunity to find out more about the project, why participants have chosen to get involved, what they hope to get out of it and their hopes in terms of their own personal recovery

In addition to exploring the psychological impact of scarring and developing new treatments, the centre is bringing together leading scientists and clinicians to investigate the body’s healing process following trauma associated with chemical, burn and blast injuries. The Duke will also meet the expert team spearheading new clinical and biological treatments to reduce scarring. These include Decorin, a pro-healing protein developed within a new biomaterial gel for use as an anti-scarring dressing, along with laser therapy to correct historic scars.

Dave Henson, Co-Founder of The CASEVAC Club said: The membership of the CASEVAC Club is comprised of unexpected survivors – those that, by right, should have died on the battlefield. For many, surviving wounds of their severity is unheard of and new to medical science. We are actively engaging with this research because the knowledge that can be gained will provide insights that can increase the likelihood of more unexpected survivals in the future, and improve the outcome for survivors of traumatic injury in general.”

Brendan Eley, Chief Executive of the Scar Free Foundation, said: Scarring not only has a lasting physical effect, but can have a serious emotional impact long after the wounds themselves have healed. The visible changes in appearance caused by conflict injuries that result in looking ‘different’ can be distressing for military personnel and their families. With the help of the people who have experienced this kind of life changing injury we can learn what support is needed by those affected, and develop tailored interventions for the armed forces community, an important part of our goal to deliver scar free healing within a generation.” 

The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research has been established in partnership with the University of Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, and The CASEVAC Club. Crucially, the centre is closely integrated with a wider network of academic and clinical institutions in the UK and beyond to ensure that the work is inclusive and at the forefront of scarring research.  

Research undertaken at The Scar Free Foundation centre will cost £4.8 million over three years. This is being funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds of £3 million – the largest grant announced in the final round of LIBOR funding – alongside an additional £1.8 million from the Foundation’s partners, including the Ana Leaf Foundation and JP Moulton Charitable Foundation.  

The work carried out is actively supported by senior armed forces personnel including the Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief of Defence People and the Surgeon General. Other armed forces charities including Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion and Forces in Mind Trust are also collaborating in the research activity.