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Case study: Q&A: Andrew Grimshaw - Clinical Trials Assistant at CRN Wessex

An interview with clinical trials assistant Andrew Grimshaw about his role in the Direct Delivery Team at CRN Wessex

The new Direct Delivery Team at CRN Wessex play a pivotal role in facilitating research in Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight and Wiltshire. We speak to Andrew Grimshaw, a Clinical Trials Assistant at CRN Wessex. 

When did you join the CRN Wessex Direct Delivery team?

September 2021.

How are you settling in?

Very well, thank you! There is a tremendous level of camaraderie amongst everyone within both the DDT and CRN Wessex organisation as a whole which has made it, in all honesty, a fantastic place to work so far.

Please tell us a little bit about your role within the team.

As a Clinical Trials assistant we need to be able to cover nearly all bases so that we can be called upon to help and slot in as and when and where needed. First and foremost we need a fundamental understanding of the ethical and legal guidelines that govern clinical trials e.g. consent. On a practical level we need patient-facing clinical skills e.g. being able to draw blood, and to then process said blood in the laboratory.

Is this your first role within research?

No, I have spent my entire career in medical research. I trained as a T-cell immunologist in the context of autoimmune disease at Imperial College and prior to working for CRN Wessex I worked at the National Neurology Hospital in Queen Square, London, working on the transmission and neuropathology of prion diseases such as BSE (“mad cow” disease) and vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).

What have you found most rewarding, enjoyable or interesting about your role so far?

The reason I joined the DDT is because I wanted my next job to be more vocational, patient-facing. Laboratory work is fine, but working in hospitals I had always wanted to put my empathy to better use and interact with patients directly which I am now able to do.

Any moments where you've felt proud of yourself or colleagues since being in the role?

On a couple of occasions during my venesection training in the phlebotomy clinic, patients commented along the lines of "Oh, normally they really struggle to get blood from me but you've done it with no problems; you can bleed me again next time!".  Naturally it wasn't always as plain sailing as that but when you do get that kind of positive feedback it gives you that inner confidence to know you are at least on the right path!

What have you found challenging about your role so far?

Directions! Patients and visitors will often stop and ask for directions when you are walking around clinical environments and being new to both the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Southampton General Hospital, it has been tricky and can make you feel somewhat useless!

How would you describe the role of the Direct Delivery Team?

The DDT is a group of multi-skilled individuals, from a variety of healthcare backgrounds, who work together to help facilitate the day-to-day running of clinical trials in the various clinical and community settings across the Wessex region.

What are you most looking forward to career wise in the next six months?

Two things: 1) I am looking forward to working on trials that are embedded within community settings that allow us to give those members of the general public who may have no knowledge whatsoever of clinical research some insight into the fact that almost everyone can become part of the bigger picture by participating in clinical research trials and in doing so contribute to the knowledge base and health benefits for future generations. 2) The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many excellent trials from other specialties have been put on hold while urgent public health vaccine trials have taken precedence. I therefore look forward to working on other trials more in line with my historic interests: inflammation, autoimmune disease, neurodegeneration.

How do you think the Direct Delivery Team will enhance health and social care research in the Wessex region?

As per my previous answer, I hope we are able to become the face of social and clinical research in communities that have traditionally not always been served as well as they could have; perhaps due to geography or perhaps due to insufficient local healthcare infrastructure.

Anything else you’d like to share?

If any members of the public are interested in finding out more about clinical trials being run in their area, you can find out more at