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CRN Greater Manchester Core Team blog series: Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Operating Officer

Congratulations on completing the first full week back for 2024! We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the journey we've had and the incredible strides we've made together. There are too many fantastic achievements from the last 12 months to list, however, some of these include… 

  • First ever Northern Research Conference
  • Commended in the Lord O’Shaughnessey report
  • two Global firsts, two European firsts, six UK firsts
  • Research Festivals
  • Ready for Research children’s book
  • Finalists in the HSJ awards

As the Chief and Deputy Chief Operating Officers, our roles are all about supporting you in your individual roles, facilitating delivery across our diverse provider organisations to enable increased access for local people, and delivering world leading services to sponsors, customers and stakeholders, that add value to their studies. We both have a unique set of experiences and traits that make us a united and efficient team. This makes us a tailored fit for our roles and to each other.

Every day we are committed to empowering you to find new ways to optimise our processes through continuous improvement, and map pathways and ideas that deliver greater efficiency and excellence. We both have a large national interface across different working areas and operate by the same values in all that we do. Although the role of Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Operating Officer are complimentary, they each have a distinct set of responsibilities.

Sarah Fallon

As the Chief Operating Officer, I lead and collaborate with a variety of teams and organisations. These include; NIHR local research ecosystem operations, Northern Supra initiatives and Northern Health Science Alliance programmes, and I lead on the communications across the CRN GM Partnership and Executive teams. I oversee the daily running of the core team locally providing direction for Study Support and Digital Services; Business Development and Industry; Workforce, Learning and Development, Communications; and ICS/NHS engagement. 

I work closely on a number of projects with the CRN Coordinating Centre directorates, and regularly chair meetings that support the strategic development nationally. I’m a leader for national workstreams in the Annual Business Plan, the Find Recruit and Follow up Board, the Integrated Care System Advisory Group, the Springboard Advisory Group, the CPMS/LPMS future service working group, and I am the Direct Delivery Team National Business Lead. My assistance in these groups ensures we collectively meet all our organisational objectives and have national programmes that strengthen local delivery. 

Susan Neeson 

As Deputy Chief Operating Officer, I’m committed to strengthening the performance and development of our local CRN services. I collaborate with Business Intelligence; Finance and Contracting; Communications; and Social Care and Primary Care services. The co-operation I have with these departments allows me to ensure our teams are supported when implementing the operational procedures and strategies that have been set. This is necessary to ensure high quality performance in each department. I lead the Partner and Portfolio services that includes Speciality Portfolio Management, Partner Portfolio Management, and Direct and Agile Delivery. Additionally, I oversee our local operational group and specialty lead meetings. I contribute to the national Deputy  Chief Operating Officer group and work streams including the Research Delivery Directorate Steering Group, Lead Nurse and Nursing Midwifery and the Allied Health Professional development forum. These responsibilities enable the efficient collaboration between teams, and the delivery of projects that meet our shared objectives. 

Our leadership style ensures trusting relationships are built within the CRN and with external partners and customers. We work to create a fair and respectful working environment by being open, honest, valuing everybody and taking a shared approach. We always welcome suggestions for new and improved ways of working together. This is both beneficial for our future growth but also for the culture we generate and belong to, so let’s continue to make it something we are all proud to be part of.

By Sarah Fallon and Susan Neeson (pictured, second and third from the right, with the CRN Greater Manchester team

Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Operating Officer 

CRN Greater Manchester 

January 2024 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.