Date published: 16 October 2023

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It’s a few months now since we first broke the news we would be establishing the first ever Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre (M-RIC) in Liverpool, and I thought now is a timely moment to update you about its progress.

From its official launch in May, I always regarded M-RIC as an exciting collaboration between healthcare, academia and research. The partnership between Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool - funded as part of the national ‘Mental Health Mission’ from the Office of Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research – promises to establish Liverpool as a world leader in improving mental healthcare through research that is embedded in care services.

Of course, like any major project of similar ambition, building blocks need to be put in place first and within a few short months, we’ve made good progress in setting up infrastructure and governance arrangements and of course developing new relationships.

You’ll see from the infographic below, we’ve already recruited 23 people to the M-RIC team in a variety of different roles and many of those have already started to move into our headquarters at Liverpool Science Park, which will be fully operational by the end of the year.

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There are currently seven areas of work which M-RIC is prioritising. This underpins Liverpool City Region’s commitment to our patients and service users and providing easy access to clinical trials and increasing their involvement in better care, closer to home and has been actively supported by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.

Data and digital infrastructure: We’ve started the first import of data into a ‘Trusted Research Environment’, which we have created with Microsoft, working with the Civic Data Co-operative. This will enable researchers and the NHS to use data analysis tools without compromising security, which of course has been an increasing priority for all organisations.

Digital Self Health Avatar Project: This aims to improve how data is collected and linked to electronic care records, to benefit treatment for patients. You may also hear about the SHIELD pilot trial, which is being run in partnership with Apple and Concentrix. It involves using smart technology - wearables - for Mersey Care staff to monitor health and wellbeing.

Innovative Therapies for Mood Disorders: This identifies service users and patients most in need of innovative methods to help with difficult-to-treat depression. An integrated mood disorder service pathway - one of the first in the UK - is in the set-up phase and the first cohort of patients and service users has been identified.

We have also opened a new Neuromodulation Suite, based in Knowsley, in response to increasing evidence supporting the effectiveness of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).  It’s one of the largest purpose built centres in the country, focusing on real world evidence based treatment and is home to our dedicated Mood Disorder Clinic.

Improving mental health for children and young people using digital technology: Our researchers are working with adolescents in trialling MindAR, a therapeutic game and speech biomarker, which is a set of parameters associated to a clinical outcome which can detect or monitor a pathological state and classify its severity.

Neuro-immune therapeutics for psychosis:  We’re creating an infrastructure for innovative immune therapies for schizophrenia by co-designing a feasibility study with patients whose symptoms persist despite treatment.

System wide delivery: Our work to link civic and mental health data to examine impact on service users is well underway; a bid has been submitted for a telehealth programme; and following a recent conference, our researchers are considering the development of a Liverpool group focussed on developing resilience for those affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement activities: This is gathering momentum and pace and our team is currently looking for patients and service users to be part of the research journey. They are also engaging with the public to raise awareness of M-RIC in many communities, supporting inclusion and diversity.

To empower patients and make healthcare research more equitable, we’ve adopted a new researcher led ‘Count me in’ (CMI) approach whereby patients (aged 18+) in contact with participating mental health services can hear about research relevant to their care, unless they choose to not to and ‘opt out’. 

The Count Me In approach promotes inclusivity and enables us to communicate with our patients/service users about our research regularly, offering more opportunities to take part. You’ll see with the updates of our work streams above that data is crucial to the mental health research mission and at the heart of all of our work.

I’ve said before that one of the key lessons learned from launching the Zero Suicide Alliance is that the more data and research we can collect – with a real emphasis on data security – the better placed we are to look at different ways of dealing with mental health and suicidal issues.

We’re delighted to have 33 patients and service users involved already in our grant applications, but we want a broad cross section of society involved in this to develop more innovative treatment and care we are able to offer to our communities. We already have healthcare professionals, academics, researchers, industry partners and public advisers helping to achieve that, but we want to put mental health research at the heart of Mersey Care and our communities and make it everyone’s business.

There’s more information about M-RIC and some of the world-renowned experts we have working with us to advance treatment and care in the latest copy of MC Magazine.

If you’d like to know more, please email our team or follow us on social media via our  X platform or Facebook, where we’ll post all the latest developments and news to ensure those who want to get involved can do so.

We’ll also post more information about our workstreams and plans on the newly developed M-RIC website while there will also be information posted on the Mersey Care website and the University of Liverpool website.

Thanks for your interest and support.


Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive Officer

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust