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CRN Greater Manchester Core Team blog series: Engagement and work in the community

As you’ll probably know, healthcare research has taken place in secondary care settings such as hospitals for a long time. There have been amazing studies we have seen in the news and their findings which have been the subject of national attention, as well as countless others that have made a huge difference to people’s lives. This however has helped create the association of research with drug trials carried out by people in lab coats. Another commonly held view we tend to come across as a result of some of these more widely publicised trials, is that trials are only for ‘sick’ people and are only available if you have been diagnosed with certain conditions. 

For those that work in research we know this isn’t the case, and this is where our community engagement efforts come in. As part of our work, the Agile Delivery Team works to spread awareness about different types of research and to give as many people the opportunity to take part in studies as possible. There are plenty of examples of important research that might involve just the completion of a questionnaire, or could involve attending study-specific focus groups, or maybe you’d be asked to provide a saliva sample. These studies often involve just a one off interaction with a study team and can be vital in introducing people to the idea of taking part in research. 

There are also plenty of opportunities for ‘healthy volunteers’ to take part, meaning you don’t have to be diagnosed with a particular condition to join in and help make a difference. These are often studies that don’t need a clinical setting, and as a result we can take this research out into places where people will have easier access if they were interested in taking part. Making research accessible to everyone is at the heart of what we do. The more studies we can take out into the community, the more likely people will be able to take part as we are removing a lot of the barriers to their involvement in trials. 

A big part of this is getting out into communities and public settings to have that face-to-face discussion about our work and research as a whole. Over the past year we’ve been out to a whole range of settings such as;  food festivals, sporting events, mental health support groups, health fairs, schools, university open days and mosques. We’ve even adjusted working patterns to work evenings and some weekends in an attempt to make research as inclusive as possible. We’re seeing real success with this approach and this is largely due to the enthusiasm of the team who are incredibly passionate about the work we do.

The efforts put in by the team have even led to the network hosting our own health care events which we call Research Festivals. So far we have held these events in a number of boroughs across Greater Manchester including; Oldham, Tameside, Levenshulme and Wigan. These events allow us to promote different studies people can take part in, while providing a platform to help promote local organisations and services.

We are always looking to spread the word about research and are happy to meet with anyone interested. So please do get in touch if you’d like to hear more about research that is happening in the area, or if you’d like to see us at an event near you.

Ash Minchin

Research Support Facilitator 

CRN Greater Manchester

November 2023 

Above, Ash (centre) is pictured speaking with school pupils about health and care research. 

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.