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“I want to share the great opportunities I’ve been given and help others develop.”

deirdre brooking

CRN North Thames is excited to announce today the arrival of Deirdre Brooking as its new Lead for Workforce Development.

The role has previously been supported by two members of staff: Adeeba Asghar, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Research Delivery Manager, Caroline Williams. This new appointment will be the first standalone full-time role, encompassing many exciting new projects.

After graduating from the University of Liverpool with a degree in Biochemistry followed by a Master's at the University of Reading in Biotechnology, Deirdre started her research career in the Biochemistry department of the Royal Free Hospital in north London. From there, she moved on to a surgical role in the Heart Valve Bank at the Royal Brompton Hospital, before progressing to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in 2011, where she started her journey in clinical research.

She explains: “My career as a junior Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) started in Sarcoma [a type of cancer] research, and this opened my eyes to the world of clinical medicine, patients, research ethics and data management.

“I missed the academic side of life but enjoyed the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) approach, and ultimately improving people’s lives. My experiences made me realise that clinical trials were what really interested me.”

Deirdre later seized the opportunity to join the trust's Research and Innovation Centre in Stanmore. There, she was part of the clinical trials team for more than seven years and led the research delivery team before agreeing to join the CRN.

Deirdre’s interest in research has also led her to take part in studies herself, including an investigation of 4D CT scanners for dental work and the important COVID-19 SIREN study, tracking antibodies in health workers, giving her some valuable patient-centred experiences.

Her first major trial as a practitioner was the TARVA trial, which won an NIHR award for best patient information video. The study compared the effectiveness of ankle replacement versus fusion and the experience paved the way to introducing a novel partnership at RNOH of a practitioner being assigned to a clinical team.

This led to one of Deirdre’s most significant achievements to date, with her enormous contribution to CRPs and the recently launched CRP directory. She explains:

“Because I wasn’t a nurse, a doctor or physiotherapist patients didn’t know what to call me. The title and concept of a CRP was not widely known or understood, even amongst my peers.

“After five years leading the team, I underwent training on the NIHR Advanced Leadership Programme, and it was there that I realised there was something missing in bringing the CRPs together and raising their profile.”

She was first asked to write a blog, detailing ‘a day in the life of a CRP’ and as a result, was invited to join the CRP committee panel, who set about defining the competencies needed and developing a recognised registration for those qualified. Deirdre subsequently became one of the first on a committee to develop the CRP directory, which now has nearly 1,000 members. She says:

“There were over 25 different descriptors being used for a CRP and they have at last been brought together, with a recognised role. There are now more registered CRPs than designated research nurses.”

Having explored and developed her own career and with her attitudes and wealth of experience in knowledge building, Deirdre is ideally placed to help the North Thames workforce grow.

“Some of the training I received helped me recognise the value of my own contribution and gave me confidence to realise my capabilities” she says. “I want to share the great opportunities I’ve been given and help others develop.” 

She has some exciting plans for the future and will be developing the new North Thames Agile Workforce as well as playing an important role in ensuring that the LCRN funded workforce are well trained, supported professionally and have access to the advice and development that are essential to the effective delivery of research.

“I want to be an advocate for CRPs in North Thames, but I’m really keen to see more of what’s going on across the network and am looking forward to working with teams and groups I haven’t come across before. I’m excited to be working with 21 trusts and operating more closely with our partners and industry as well as with the coordinating centre to see what’s happening nationally.”

Janice Paterson, Workforce Strategy Lead at CRN National Coordinating Centre said:

“I am delighted that Deirdre has been appointed Workforce Development Lead at CRN North Thames. Deirdre's engagement with national initiatives for development of the research workforce has been demonstrated most notably through her commitment to professionalisation for CRPs and I am very much looking forward to working together with her as she takes up her new role.”

CRN North Thames Chief Operating Officer, Dr Sharon Barrett added:

“I am thrilled with Deirdre’s appointment. We need to work harder to foster a relationship with the delivery workforce community. With Deirdre’s experience and skills, we will hopefully build a culture of inclusivity and diversity and offer much more training and development opportunities to the wider research landscape across our region.”