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Case study: Wessex Clinical Research Practitioner joins accredited register

An interview with Ashlea Brooks, Clinical Research Practitioner at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

In 2018, I took a role as Clinical Trials Associate at Southern Health, focusing on mental health research which linked well to my degree in psychology.

After a year, I then took on the role of Research Facilitator at Southern Health. I quickly realised that my role has so many equivalent counterparts in other health foundations across the country, but we’re all called something different. And we all bring so many different skills and areas of research to the table.

As a Research Facilitator, my role is to support and establish clinical trials, pulling together the multiple processes and people involved within them. This can be anything from coordinating studies and ensuring their ethical framework is adhered to, establishing their feasibility and liaising with the multiple teams involved.

There are so many of us, with so many unique skills and experiences and we now have a way of bringing all of that together.

I also help to support recruitment to trials by approaching service users to ask for their involvement, helping them with their understanding of what the trial involves and conducting research visits. Essentially, my role is to ensure the smooth delivery of commercial and home-grown clinical and research trials.

With so many of us all over the country performing similar roles, but with different approaches to our work and different areas of research expertise, this can be a challenge to offer consistency and congruency within the research environment.

In August 2019, an email was sent to Clinical Research Practitioners (CRPs), an umbrella title for roles within research delivery, to ask them to be involved in a pilot that the NIHR was launching to initially create a directory and ultimately an accreditation scheme for our roles.

It was clear to them, and to me, that all of us would benefit from having a consistent approach to our work and a clear, professionally recognised pathway to distinguish the importance of our roles.

I expressed my interest at being involved in the accreditation pilot and, after some COVID-19 delays, the process began in June 2020 with draft documents being sent out alongside meetings where we were given instructions on how to complete them.

It will have a big impact on our roles and how we are seen within research.

These meetings were invaluable for all of us because we had the opportunity to feed back on the forms, ask questions around the work we were being asked to submit for evidence and establish a quality approach to how the accredited registration would be measured and evaluated.

During the pilot process, we were all given a voice and an opportunity to learn from other people. Bringing that into a certificated scheme will undoubtedly give all Clinical Research Practitioners the opportunity to learn and grow.

The directory and accredited registration process for CRPs is now live and open for people to register for the scheme, which is a really great feeling for me. There are so many of us, with so many unique skills and experiences and we now have a way of bringing all of that together.

CRPs can begin the process of validation and certification via the website, something that will benefit all of us. Knowing that I have helped to shape the accredited register and provide others, like me, with an opportunity to work towards a recognised standard is a good feeling. It will have a big impact on our roles and how we are seen within research.

We all bring so many different skills and areas of research to the table.

I’m one of the first people in the country to receive my certificate, and the first in Southern Health, and it feels important to me that I’ve achieved it.

It gives all of us the support that we need to continue to provide the best research practice we can and ensures the safety and quality of the trials that we run.

Like most professional certificates, it needs to be renewed every year with evidence provided of how you are working to the standards set out. This recognised quality mark will give strength and support to everyone from researchers and clinical teams, to patients and trial sponsors.

I feel very grateful to have been involved with establishing the accredited register. For me to have shaped something that will enable so many people to develop their careers is a proud moment.

Find out more about the Clinical Research Practitioner Directory