RESEARCHERS at a Hampshire university have received £2.2m to aid their battle against bone and muscle conditions.

The money will be used to discover and develop ways to reduce the burden of work disability caused by musculoskeletal conditions (MSDs).

These include lower back pain, osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, gout and rarer conditions such as lupus, which cost an estimated 30.6 million working days to be lost each year.

It has been awarded to the National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, based at the University of Southampton.

The centre, established in 2014 with an initial investment of £1.4 million over five years, is coordinated from the university's Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU).

The UK has the highest rates of new claims for disability of any economically developed country, with the two most common causes of disability being musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions.

Over the last five years, the initial investment in the centre has enabled the MRC LEU to build relationships and develop research skills as well as building a team of scientists.

From the initial award, collaborators have also succeeded in leveraging an additional £5 million for work and health research on which the centre expects to build substantially.

Director of the centre, Professor Karen Walker-Bone said:

"There is plenty of evidence that people with musculoskeletal conditions want to work but that they often need support and suitable adjustments from employers to enable them to work.

"We have put forward an ambitious plan for research that will take place in healthcare settings, public health and workplaces over the next 5 years in order to better understand how to make differences in all these areas.

"Moreover, we will lead development of consensus work outcome measures and develop economic approaches to inform employers of the benefit of investing in prevention of MSDs.”

"We have found that this is a “hot” area for policy-makers and we plan to strengthen our ability to provide rapidly responsive information to policy-makers,”

Professor Walker-Bone added: "We are delighted to receive this significant uplifted investment."