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Awards shortlist success for Network’s scholars programme

A development programme to encourage and support more West Midlands healthcare colleagues to become research leaders – as well generating £18m of funding opportunities - has been shortlisted for a national award.

The Clinical Research Network West Midlands (CRN WM) is in the running for the Talent Acquisition Award in the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA) Excellence in People Awards 2022.

The HPMA Awards recognise and reward outstanding work in Healthcare, Human Resources, Organisational Development and Workforce Management. The Network created a programme to support healthcare professionals to become research leaders in response to the region’s poor uptake compared to other areas.

Professor Matthew Brookes, CRN WM Clinical Director, said: “We are thrilled that our approach to tackle the challenges our healthcare colleagues face to become actively involved in research, despite a willingness and wish to do so in their roles, has been recognised by the HPMA.

“It is vitally important that we embed research into healthcare delivery research as we know that active healthcare organisations demonstrate lower mortality rates and better outcomes from cancer treatments to name just two benefits.

“Colleagues have told us that protected time, mentorship and funding are the main barriers for them – potentially resulting in between 3,500 and 4,000 patients or participants missing out on opportunities to join research studies each year. Our region was also missing out on funding to help our organisations to increase research and in turn improve the outcomes of our patients.”

The scholars development programme included both doctors and non-medics (nurses, midwives and allied health professionals) and is geared towards those at an early stage in their research career. It provides clinicians with an effective protected space and paid time for developing as research leaders, setting up their own clinical trial ideas, leading to funding applications.

Successful applicants spent one dedicated day per week working with a clinical trials unit at Keele, Birmingham or Warwick or other relevant research groups to develop their grant applications and publications. Scholars also received one-to-one personal mentoring.

They received allocated mentoring and were encouraged to attend appropriate research training courses and make early contact with groups such as the research design service. Further peer support is provided with a dedicated WhatsApp group and regular informal meetings. Yearly appraisals were developed to provide feedback and updates on progress, plus a clear plan for how the scholarship will generate future income to become self-funding at the end of two years.

A total of 17 scholars were initially appointed from 10 different NHS trusts - due to workload pressures, including the COVID-19 pandemic, one scholar based in intensive care at one of the smallest trusts had to defer starting their scholarship.

Of the remaining 16 scholars in post all but one have applied for a research grant.

Ten of the scholars (63%) have been awarded 40 grants totalling £18,315,430 and all scholars in post have generated more than 200 research papers. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive as a result of the new programme.

Jane Willcocks, CRN WM Learning and Workforce Development Project Facilitator, added: “Scholars have highlighted the value of having protected time and the funding experience that has been so beneficial to them through the creation of this programme.

“We’re so proud of the commitment they have shown and the difference they have made to our patients across the region as a result.”

The winners of the Awards are being announced on 8 September 2022 at the HPMA conference.

Professor Adrian Garner, Consultant Spinal Surgeon, The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham, said: “My CRN West Midlands Research Scholar funding support has provided me with time to develop as a future research leader, work up research and personal leadership training grants and build international research experience and collaborations. As an early-career allied health researcher opportunities such as this are crucial in bridging the gap between early post-doctoral research and being research funding independent.”

Dr Jonathan Quicke, Academic Clinical Lecturer in Physiotherapy & Haywood Foundation Activity Co-ordinator, said: “I have found the fellowship an excellent experience allowing me to gain the knowledge of how to organise and apply for national grants. It is a world that I would never be exposed to otherwise and that would have made any chance of success less likely.”


For further information, contact:  Claire Hall, Communications Lead on 07774 800227.