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Royal award for saving babies’ lives around the world

Press release issued: 26 November 2013

The University of Bristol has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education - the highest accolade for any academic institution – in recognition of its leading-edge research in obstetric and neonatal practice, which has made a positive difference to mothers and babies throughout the world.

Birth and the early stages of life are safer because of three strands of research carried out at Bristol.
  • The work of Professor Peter Fleming and Dr Pete Blair in the School of Social and Community Medicine, in association with the campaign to ensure babies slept on their back, has resulted in a dramatic drop in global incidents of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome ‘Cot Death’.  The research and subsequent campaign has cut UK cot deaths by 80 per cent, with 25 fewer babies dying each week and has shaped policy in over 30 countries.  Around 15,000 infant deaths in the UK, and at least 100,000 worldwide, have been prevented since the late 1980s.
  • In the School of Clinical Sciences, Professor Marianne Thoresen’s revolutionary treatment on cooling babies who have suffered oxygen shortage at birth is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR).  The treatment, standard throughout the developed world since 2010, saves 1,500 babies from death and disability each year and is saving the NHS, and families, more than £200 million per annum.
  • PROMPT (PRactical Obstetric Multi-Professional Training), an obstetric emergency training programme, led by Tim Draycott in the School of Social and Community Medicine, has been adopted by 85 per cent of UK Obstetric Units, and is being rolled out across the world.  PROMPT has shown a 50 per cent reduction in neonatal hypoxic injuries, a 70 per cent reduction in bracial plexus injury and improvement in performance of category one emergency Caesarean sections.

The announcement was made last week at a reception at St James’s Palace, which was attended by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Clarke and Professor Marianne Thoresen.

Professor David Clarke, speaking about the award, said: “The University is delighted to receive this prestigious award.  It highlights the ground-breaking research being carried out by Bristol academics. 

“The research in obstetric and neonatal practice has made a positive difference to mothers and babies and will continue to save thousands of lives throughout the world.”

The Queen will present the prestigious accolade, which is part of the UK’s national Honours system, to the University during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace next year.

A total of 17 universities and three further education colleges won the highest national honour in education at the announcement.

The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said: “I warmly congratulate the twenty universities and colleges honoured in The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education.

“I welcome the role that the prizes play in enabling our institutions to publicise their successes. Britain’s ability to compete depends on the quality of the teaching and research undertaken by our universities and colleges; and particularly on the translation of that work into real benefits for society, business and the growth of the economy.”

The award recognises the academic institution rather than an individual or team. It was established in 1993, and is organised by the Royal Anniversary Trust.


Further information

The pioneering treatment developed by Professor Marianne Thoresen on cooling babies after birth was carried out at St Michael’s Hospital, part of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

Tim Draycott is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Social and Community Medicine in the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine and a consultant obstetrician at North Bristol NHS Trust.

The tenth round presentations, to representatives from the winning institutions, will be made in February 2014 at a Buckingham Palace honours ceremony.

Tenth round prize winners:

University of the Arts London
Industrial and product design contributing to the strength of the creative economy

University of Bedfordshire
Applied research on child sexual exploitation influencing new safeguarding policy and practice

University of Bristol
Obstetric and neonatal practice: saving babies’ lives around the world

Cardiff University
Geoenvironmental solutions to major challenges of land, groundwater quality and regeneration

Cornwall College
Vocational training for land-based industries empowering and developing the local rural economy

Colege Cambria
Vocational and engineering training in aircraft production and maintenance for Airbus and UK aerospace

University of Dundee
Research in human anatomy applied to forensic and victim identification worldwide

The University of Edinburgh
Extending professional and academic skills in surgery through international online training at Masters level

University of Glasgow
Research on links between human activity and animal ecology, bringing international health benefits

University of Kent
Improving the quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

University of Leicester
Inter-connected research and expertise in history, heritage and archaeology, highlighted by the discovery of Richard III

Loughborough University
Research and skills development in High Value Manufacturing creating new products, processes and economic growth

The University of Manchester
New techniques in x-ray imaging of materials critical for power, transport and other key industries

Midkent College
Engineering and construction training for the Army producing a major contribution to the local economy

Newcastle University
Long-term research and new strategies for the rural and social economy

Northumbria University
The Student Law Office: a distinctive contribution to legal education providing access to justice in the local community

University of Oxford
Practical and cost-effective improvements in prevention of stroke

University of Sterling
Research into the impact of product marketing on children’s health which has widely influenced international policies

Teesside University
Growing digital business start-ups by graduates and creating entrepreneurship and opportunity in the local economy

University College London
Creating the bioprocess engineering base for converting research into new medicines

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