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CRN North East and North Cumbria Impact Report 2021/22


View the PDF version of the 2021/22 Impact Report. Please note that this is not an accessible PDF, but the content on this page is the accessible version.


Over the past two years we have seen first-hand the difference that research can make to people’s lives. 2021/22 was a year of continuing the vital COVID-19 research that has given us so much in terms of vaccines, treatments and knowledge, while at the same time recovering our capacity to deliver life-changing research in other areas following the pandemic. I am extremely proud of what our research community has achieved over the past year.

Our core team, Specialty Leads, Chief and Principal Investigators, and the research staff in our partner organisations have worked tirelessly with passion to deliver health and care research that meets the needs of our local communities and improves quality of life. An enormous thank you to all of you. Equally, research would not be possible without the many people who give their time and effort to take part in studies, raise public awareness, and contribute in countless other ways. It is wonderful to see another exceptional year for research participation and I am grateful to every patient, carer, service user and member of the public who has been involved.

Looking ahead, we aim to build on our successes, increase our reach into primary care and community settings, and continue to increase opportunities for people to participate in research that will benefit us all.

Professor Caroline Wroe, Clinical Director


People and communities

Patient and public involvement is key to health and care research. There are many different ways that patients, carers, and the public can get involved, such as by taking part in research studies, promoting research, and being a public contributor on a study.

Key statistics

In 2021/22, the North East and North Cumbria

Research Champions

We work with 17 Research Champions across the region - volunteers who promote research to members of the public, carers and healthcare professionals. 4 new Research Champions were recruited in 2021/22.

Staff perceptions of under-served groups in research

We led a project to survey NHS and NIHR staff about under-represented groups in health and care research. Results showed that there are significant systemic barriers which make it difficult to engage under-served people in research. 954 staff members completed the survey.

Sharing learning through Creating Connections

As part of Creating Connections, a regional Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) network, we hosted 5 virtual training sessions about PPIE in health and social care research. 668 people - including professionals, patients and the public - registered to attend.

Engaging under-served communities in Join Dementia Research

“Join Dementia Research” (JDR) is a service that helps you register interest in taking part in dementia research. Data shows that ethnic minorities are under-represented in JDR, which echoes the personal experiences of our Research Champions, who confirmed a lack of awareness in their own communities. The group decided to work towards improving the reach of JDR in collaboration with the Angelou Centre, a black-led women’s centre based in Newcastle. As a result, the Angelou Centre has joined our upcoming work on Research Ready Communities - an initiative to empower local groups and leaders to work with national research bodies and the NHS.

Comments from research participants in the region

  • "The staff are lovely, I always felt welcomed. It’s good knowing that I am potentially helping to save lives by taking part."
  • "I have been treated with kindness and respect and feel I have benefitted from being on the trial. I would take part again if I were needed."
  • "It was great to work with specialists who had a genuine interest in my experiences with my condition."


Research across health and care settings

We provide healthcare professionals with the practical support they need to make research happen in both the NHS and across the wider health and social care environment.

Engaging in research across the region

  • 100% of Trusts recruited into studies supported by NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) (our aim: 99%)
  • 72.7% of Trusts recruited into commercial studies supported by NIHR CRN (our aim: 70%)
  • 50.7% of GP practices recruited into studies supported by NIHR CRN (our aim: 45%)

The HEART study - delivering commercial research in primary care settings

The HEART study (sponsored by Genomics plc) aims to assess an individual’s risk of developing heart disease using an algorithm that combines a person’s genetic risk score with lifestyle factors. 498 participants were recruited from 11 GP practices across the North East and North Cumbria in 2021/22.

Professor Ahmet Fuat, Chief Investigator of the HEART study, said: “The CRN team did a fantastic job supporting the study. They initially helped to get the study adopted onto the NIHR portfolio; completed the site ID process; identified research active GPs who could get involved; helped with finance queries; and provided nurse support to help with patient recruitment in some practices. Nothing was too much trouble!”

Supporting public health research - the MapMe study

Childhood obesity is an important public health problem. Parents are central to the development of their child’s health-related behaviours; however, many studies show that parents do not recognise when their child is overweight.

The MapMe tool helps parents understand whether their child is overweight using body image scales and supporting information. The MapMe study aims to find out whether using the tool can lead to improved child weight outcomes, and if so how and at what cost. 563 participants were recruited via three councils in the North East in 2021/22.

Targeting unmet health needs in the region

In 2021/22, we provided £265,140.10 of funding to support new research that addresses the unmet health needs of the local population. A further £28,469 was awarded to continuing research projects from the previous year. One research project looked to introduce clinics to enhance the care pathway for patients with depression.

Did you  know that in 2021/22...

  • 30% of regional research recruitment happened outside the NHS
  • 24 local care homes recruited to research studies
  • 592 participants were recruited to research studies via local authorities in the region


COVID-19 and beyond

The North East and North Cumbria continued to play a vital role in delivering COVID-19 research throughout 2021/22. A further focus was to support the “Managed Recovery” of studies that had been paused during the pandemic.

In 2021/22, the North East and North Cumbria...

  • recruited 12,521 participants to COVID-19 Urgent Public Health studies
  • recruited 337 participants to the Valneva vaccine study
  • ran a study analysing the facilitators and barriers to recruitment during the COVID-19 RECOVERY trial

Supporting non-COVID studies

2021/22 was an important year for reopening studies that had been paused during COVID-19. Our region led on 13 studies as part of the Managed Recovery workstream, which aims to support the successful delivery of studies that had been paused during the pandemic. Recruitment increased in 80% of commercial studies led from our region.

Novavax vaccine approved for use in the UK

On 3 February 2022, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the UK. 534 volunteers from the North East had taken part in the study the previous year.

Local contributions to the UK's fastest ever recruiting primary care interventional trial

PANORAMIC (Platform Adaptive trial of NOvel antiviRals for eArly treatMent of COVID-19 in the Community) aims to investigate a range of new COVID-19 antiviral treatments that can be taken at home to help people recover more quickly and reduce the risk of serious illness from the virus. GP practices across the North East and North Cumbria region were praised for their high recruitment and exceptional support of the study. 357 participants were recruited from the North East and North Cumbria in 2021/22.

Research with Lifelong Impact - our first in-person networking event since 2019

March 2021 saw our first face-to-face networking event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event focused on how research can make a difference to people’s lives by reducing health inequalities in the region. In a series of presentations, we explored themes of prevention in public health, primary care and secondary care, while allowing delegates plenty of opportunities for networking and discussion. 115 research staff members from across the region signed up to the event.

Positive feedback from delegates: "It was great to see people face-to-face again. it was a fantastic opportunity to get to know people who are working towards the same goals as myself. All of the speakers were excellent."


Supporting our research community

We are committed to supporting the wider research community by funding research staff, offering learning and development opportunities, promoting staff wellbeing, and showing appreciation.

In 2021/22, we...

  • funded approximately 800 hours of consultant staff time
  • delivered training courses to 521 participants
  • funded equal to 480 full-time nurse, midwife, Allied Health Professional, research delivery and support staff

Routes to Research - attracting, training and supporting staff

One of our strategic themes is about embedding research into the everyday work of health and care professionals. In 2021/22, we began a project to produce a “one-stop shop” website aimed at engaging health and care staff in research within the North East and North Cumbria. The website will include a wealth of information and resources to help staff get started in research, or develop their expertise if they are already involved. It will also feature inspiring research stories from staff across the region. The website is called “Routes to Research” and is due to launch in late 2022.

First care home manager to secure an NIHR Greenshoots Award

Clare Leonard of Appleby Care Home in Whitley Bay became the first ever care home manager to secure an NIHR Greenshoots award. The Greenshoots Principal Investigator Scheme provides funding and development opportunities for applicants to pursue a career in research.

Introducing the Direct Delivery Team

Supported by national funding, we have developed a new, flexible workforce called the Direct Delivery Team to support the delivery of research studies across a broad range of settings, particularly outside of hospitals. 11 new staff members were recruited to join the team based across three sites in Newcastle, Middlesbrough and North Cumbria.

Moving to flexible working

From 4 October 2021, our Core Team moved to a flexible working pattern of three days working in the office and two days working from home on average. Staff were consulted and kept updated throughout the transition and additional IT equipment was acquired to facilitate hybrid working. Staff survey results following the transition were overwhelmingly positive.

  • 97% of staff said that they achieve a good balance between work and home life
  • 100% of staff said that they are able to make suggestions to improve the work of their team / department

Sharing thanks and appreciation

As part of International Clinical Trials Day 2021, we launched a campaign in which research staff across the region were invited to nominate colleagues who had made significant contributions to clinical research that year. Messages of thanks and appreciation were sent to the 45 nominated staff members, as well as a certificate of recognition.

Expanding research across organisational boundaries

We work collaboratively with organisations across the region to broaden the reach of research. Here are just some examples of what we have achieved together this year:

  • Worked with the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and provided funding for a new ambulance car to deliver research more effectively across the region.
  • Partnered with AHSN on the MedConnect North initiative, supporting companies to form partnerships with academia and the NHS. MedConnect North has helped leverage £2,135,477 for the region since 2018.
  • Funded 8 part-time social care roles to support research in social care settings.
  • Celebrated 17 study teams who recruited UK, European or global first participants to commercial studies. Recruiting the first participant to a study is a key performance indicator for the life sciences industry.
  • Worked with three other northern NIHR Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs) to host a successful diabetes event. The aim was to raise awareness and generate interest in different areas of diabetes treatment and research in the north of England. 320 delegates registered to attend.
  • Provided £11,608 of funding to support research in deprived areas in partnership with North of England Commissioning Support (NECS), the NIHR ARC inequalities team at Newcastle University, and NENC Deep End, which includes local GP practices where a high percentage of registered patients live in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.
  • Supported 195 GP practices (including branch practices) to recruit 4,712 research participants.
  • Supported the recruitment of 34,276 participants into 735 studies at local NHS trusts.
  • Ran an online event with NIHR Clinical Research network Yorkshire and Humber to explore how Research Champions can work alongside care homes to promote research. The event included presentations from the ENRICH (Enabling Research in Care Homes) network, a care home research nurse, a deputy care home manager, a senior researcher, as well as a personal account from a Research Champion.

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Thank you

Thank you to all of our partner organisations, staff, research participants and public contributors.