A new vision for child health research at Imperial College London

Ms Lesley Watts and  Tim Orchard

Ms Lesley Watts and Tim Orchard

A focus on common serious diseases of childhood will see Imperial’s research align with NHS child health services in west London.

An ambitious new vision for the future of Imperial’s child health research was set out at a recent event that brought together leaders from Imperial College London, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Professor Jonathan Weber , Dean of Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine , spoke of a desire to support strategic alignment between the College’s academic developments and the integrated children’s hospital to be delivered by the two NHS trusts:

"We want to seize this extraordinary opportunity, with a commitment from both NHS trusts and the university to do something new and different, and implement a truly integrated approach to paediatrics and child health."

With a focus on common diseases of childhood, including allergy, asthma, mental health and infectious diseases, Imperial’s academic ambition will be focussed on a life-course, population-health approach. This will see the College’s research - in clinical paediatrics research all the way through to primary care and public health - translated into clinical care that supports the healthy transition from birth into childhood, into adolescence and early adulthood.

Aligning with clinical opportunities in north west London

Attendees at the event heard about the vision for the West London Children’s Initiative. First described in November 2018, the initiative would see children’s services within the two NHS organisations coming together under a single management team, with more staff working across the two hospital groups to provide care where it can best meet the needs of children and their families. The aim is to have key operational elements in place from April 2020.

Ms Lesley Watts , chief executive of Chelsea and Westminster, and Professor Tim Orchard , chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare, described a shared ambition to provide the best care for the children of north west London. This development is part of a wider joint vision to see both trusts working together more closely across a range of clinical services.

Lesley Watts said: "We want to provide our care where and when it best meets the needs of children and their families, allowing us to maximise the impact of our collective expertise and support. We have some really strong foundations to build on, especially in terms of relationships with patients and with primary and community care colleagues."

Professor Orchard added: "We have begun to develop some great ways of working, using data to identify and target our care and support. We know that by bringing together the skills and commitment in both trusts, with those of the College, we can help give children in north west London the best possible start in life."

Supporting the next generation of leaders in child health

In order to realise this vision, the College will commit to recruiting new clinical academic positions, fostering the next generation of leaders in paediatrics and child health. Professor Weber said: "I am eager to take advantage of new academic appointments to expand the profile and breadth of our child health research."

A 25 million gift from Imperial alumna Marit Mohn is already enabling the establishment of a world-leading centre for children’s health and wellbeing in White City. The gift is also supporting the recruitment of an academic chair in population child health.

These developments will complement the continuation of a strong educational focus, ensuring students at Imperial’s School of Medicine and those undertaking postgraduate programmes are trained and equipped to drive forward progress in their fields.

A focus on common diseases of childhood

During a showcase of paediatric and child health research Professor Andrew Bush , Head of the proposed Imperial Centre of Paediatrics and Child Health, spoke of the College’s academic expertise:

"Paediatrics has huge strengths, both in the study of how the foetus and pre-school child can be damaged by the environment - with major consequences across the whole life course - and in the diagnosis of common and serious conditions such as infection, asthma and allergy, which cause untold misery to children and their families.

"This new initiative will consolidate the strengths of the world class paediatric researchers across College, to bring practice changing interventions to the community, the clinic, and the hospital, especially including intensive care."

Professor Bush was joined by academics from across the Faculty of Medicine to highlight Imperial’s academic child health and paediatric programmes in infectious disease, respiratory disease, allergy, cardiology, neonatal medicine and public health.



  • Dr Paul Turner spoke of the significant opportunities to foster collaborations across the College, particularly from middle-level academics.



  • Prof Adnan Custovic described strong programmes and expertise in birth and patient cohorts, early phase trials, human tissue and animal models, genetics and the microbiome, knowledge management platforms and computationally intensive data analysis.



  • Prof Sejal Saglani outlined the College’s strengths in bioengineering, bioinformatics, maths, artificial intelligence as well as public health and the opportunity to link them with clinical research programmes in paediatric asthma.



  • Prof Mike Levin gave a historical overview of the development of academic paediatric research and his infectious disease research programme at Imperial.



  • Dr Cheryl Battersby represented Prof Neena Modi’s neonatal research group, highlightling the National Neonatal Research Database and clinical studies focussed on biological mechanisms and nutrition.



  • Attendees spent time discussing ideas and opportunities throughout the meeting.



  • Attendees spent time discussing ideas and opportunities throughout the meeting. Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or Imperial College London.


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