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Developing Research Ready Communities in Kent, Surrey and Sussex

NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Kent, Surrey and Sussex is working with two voluntary organisations in Medway to engage communities under-served within research to improve inclusion and representation in health and care research.

This work is part of the national CRN Research Ready Communities Programme which works in partnership with local voluntary and community sector organisations to train locally-based ‘Community Champions’, who then speak to their local communities to understand their levels of awareness and perceptions about research.

Over the last six months, NIHR Clinical Research NetworkKent, Surrey and Sussex has been working with Medway Voluntary Action and Medway Plus and have trained two Community Champions.

Satinder Shokar is one of the ‘Community Champions’ for Medway Voluntary Action. He said: ‘’Medway Voluntary Action saw great benefit in the Research Ready Communities project, as it extended the work we already do in addressing health inequalities. It provided a model to develop a project officer’s skills to be able to go out into the community to listen to the voices of those seldom-heard individuals who are integral to improvements in health research. Medway has a high level of health inequalities and many key programmes set up to address these within its population, and the Research Ready Community project could provide another vital tool to help with this.’’

Liam Dutton from Medway Plus said of the programme: “Medway Plus has always looked to help local disadvantaged communities, so when we were approached by NIHR we could see the benefit of Research Ready Communities. Many communities within Medway face barriers whether social, economic or geographical. We want our residents to have the tools to manage their care through research and education, and empower them to speak with confidence about health.”

Madeline Bell, NIHR CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement lead said: “I have been struck by the passion and enthusiasm of Liam at Medway Plus and Satinder at Medway Voluntary Action to find out about health and care research so that they can help other members of their communities to benefit from opportunities in their local area, and to secure a healthy future in Medway. This work has been a real eye-opener and is just the beginning for more equitable access to research as the Research Ready Communities programme continues.”

The work being done in Kent, Surrey and Sussex follows a Research Ready Communities Programme pilot which ran from Autumn 2021 to August 2022, with three Local CRNs. During the pilot, the CRNs worked with three different groups - young people in Blackpool, residents in the Balby and Hexthorpe areas of Doncaster, and migrant women and residents in Brixton, South London.

For more information about the Research Ready Communities project in Kent, Surrey and Sussex please email and the Research Ready Communities: Pilot evaluation 2021-22 report provides an overview of the pilot and recommendations.