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Case study: Why have Specialty Leads for Community Research?

Research in Community Trusts

In the Spring of 2022, the Clinical Research Network West Midlands appointed Dr Louise Warburton and Professor Ian Maidment to new roles as Specialty Leads in community research.

Louise is a GP and with an extended role working in Rheumatology and musculoskeletal clinics in Telford. She is also an Associate Medical Director with responsibility for research at Shropshire Community NHS Trust which has has become research-active from nothing in the space of a couple of years. They have had support and governance from Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and a very engaged Medical Director, Dr Jane Povey who was very supportive and saw the value of research for the Trust.

Ian is an academic pharmacist based at Aston University. Prior to moving to academia, he spent 20 years plus working in the NHS. He mainly worked in mental health, but also spent periods in the acute sector and community pharmacy. His research interest is medication optimisation: helping to ensure that patients, in day-to-day clinical practice, obtain the maximum benefit from medication.

He has led six NIHR studies, for example the MEMORABLE study in older people.

Louise and Ian's journey

Most people live in the community, yet most research is conducted in acute hospitals and it has traditionally been hard for Community Trusts to engage in research. We began our tenure by interviewing staff from Community Trusts, or Trusts providing community services in the West Midlands. From these interviews we noticed a few themes and one of those was knowing how to actually start to become research active as an individual.

Training is a key issue, and we developed a series of research seminars for Community Trusts with themes such as Staff Research Champions, Funding for Allied Health Professionals and an upcoming seminar on Nurses in Research. These have been extremely well attended by delegates from right across the UK, and thanks to the Network's Learning & Workforce Development Team for arranging and hosting these webinars.

Recordings are available on the Network's training site. We hope that the seminars encourage staff working in the community to consider becoming research active and to take that next step to engaging in research.

We bring extensive and complementary skills and knowledge. To help grow research in the community, we regularly meet up with the R&D leads in Trusts conducting community-based research to advise them about multiple issues. For example, building on our skills, Louise might advise about how most effectively to work with GPs, whereas Ian might advise on pharmacy issues.

We are also leading a research study on barriers to research in the community. This has involved interviewing a number of staff and identifying key themes. We plan to make recommendations and highlight the findings to key policy makers.

Community-based research is vital to improve health outcomes. By working together and with R&D staff, we are helping to build this key NIHR Portfolio.