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Case study: Celebrating Kent, Surrey and Sussex’s Clinical Research Practitioners

We spoke to CRPs from Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and the CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex Research Delivery Team about CRP accreditation.

Over 100 Clinical Research Practitioners (CRPs) from across Kent, Surrey and Sussex have signed up to the CRP Directory. Once CRPs have joined the directory, they can apply to become a professionally registered CRP.

While CRPs are not required to be part of a statutory professional register to perform their role, professionally registered status is now available to them through voluntary accredited registration, aligned with the requirements of the UK Professional Standards Authority (PSA). So far, six CRPs from Kent, Surrey and Sussex have gone through the accreditation process and are now on the CRP Accredited Register.

The CRPs at Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) were some of the first in the country to join the Accredited Register, having taken part in the pilot programme. All of the KMPT delivery team are CRPs (except one occupational therapist and one nurse).

Imogen Sargent, Clinical Research Team Leader at KMPT, is one of those now accredited. Imogen said: "Registration has allowed professional credibility, accountability and career progression for CRPs. Our CRPs are now recognised as a professional group that is highly skilled and passionate about what they do and who will ensure the delivery of top-quality research. I am excited and proud to be a CRP, and I'm driven to help develop the registry further and create an even stronger workforce."

Megan Setterfield, a senior clinical research practitioner at KMPT, was the first CRP in the country to become registered. She said: “Having worked as a CRP for several years, I often felt misunderstood as colleagues did not realise I had a wide range of clinical skills, for example, being able to do an ECG and check vital signs. My registered status gives me more credibility. Being on the register allows me to assure patients, colleagues, sponsors and other organisations that I am a skilled professional.

“Becoming the first registered CRP nationwide gave me a huge sense of achievement and made me want to support others to establish their own professional identity. I, therefore, trained as a CRP verifier, which allows me to capture learning points to inform any improvements to the application process for future CRP register applicants.

It is wonderful to be part of a wider community of CRPs, to share experiences and feel part of a large workforce that has long felt isolated and niche.”

Hannah Wise, a senior clinical research practitioner, is another CRP from KMPT who has completed the process to become accredited. “I completed the accreditation process because it offered a great opportunity to showcase the wide range of clinical skills we possess as CRPs. It was a way of demonstrating personal competencies and standards of practice to other staff across the trust. I now feel more confident talking to clinical team members within our trust, especially when asked, ‘are you a nurse?’. I can proudly say no, I am an accredited CRP.”

Jamie Harper, another senior clinical research practitioner at KMPT: “Having worked with a variety of registered healthcare professionals during my time in the NHS, I felt slightly misunderstood. I’m in a highly-skilled role that is integral to NHS research but one which was not recognised with registration until the development of the CRP registry. A formal registration helps us explain to others about our roles as CRPs and the benefits that we bring to service users and clinical services.”

Registration has also increased the feeling of community with the chance to connect with CRPs across various NHS trusts. The registry will further benefit our profession by enabling us to learn from each other and work together to support our participants.”

Other CRPs are in the process of completing their applications. Bethany Jones and Maria Croft are CRN KSS Research Delivery Team members. Bethany explains why she decided to apply to be an accredited CRP: “I want to become an accredited CRP for my personal development and career progression. Working on the application has meant that I've reflected on my practice and identified areas that I can improve upon and develop.

“Being on the accredited register is recognition of research in general and especially of CRPs whose role is misunderstood. NHS colleagues have asked me, ‘who are you?’ and I will be able to say that I am a registered professional, it may be a voluntary register, but I am a registered person too.

“Our CRPs all have different backgrounds. I have a degree in biology, others may have degrees in other science subjects, but the register unites us all under one banner and shows that we are working towards the same goal.”

Maria Croft is also applying to join the CRP Accredited Register: “Being an accredited CRP will help me to be recognised within a clinical environment. I have over ten years of clinical work experience as a health care assistant in hospital and community settings and six years working on clinical trials alongside clinical colleagues. I hold a Psychology degree, not a clinical degree, and this can be unsettling for NHS colleagues who do not understand our role, but this register will help provide the reassurance that we are trained professionals in a clinical environment.”

To find out more about the CRP Accredited Register and the role of CRPs, visit the Clinical Research Practitioner Directory website

The term CRP is an umbrella title for the family of roles in research delivery with a patient/participant-facing element within clinical environments and other health and social care settings. These roles include but are not limited to Clinical Studies Officer, Research Practitioner, Clinical Trials Practitioner and Clinical Trials Officer, among others.