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Introducing: Briony Dillon, Lead Research Practitioner, Agile Research Delivery Team (ARDT)

Briony Dillon, Lead Research Practitioner, Agile Research Delivery Team

As lead for the ARDT in the South West Peninsula (SWP) area, Briony is tasked with developing the team, strategy and infrastructure to deliver research in new settings, with a focus on reaching underserved communities.

Two months into the role, Briony shares her vision for the ARDT, and for the transformation of research in our region.  

What is your background in research?

I have worked in a hybrid clinical and research role for the last 6 years. After qualifying as a Clinical Scientist, I went on to work part time at Aston University as a Research Fellow working on an NHS-based research project in Birmingham. I then moved to Devon and took up the post of Research Team Leader in Torbay & South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, overseeing a team of Nurses, Assistant Practitioners, Healthcare Assistants and Allied Health Professionals working on a broad range of secondary care-based portfolios. When the opportunity came up for this secondment to the ARDT, I was really excited by the opportunity to drive this new approach to delivering research, so I was delighted to be offered the role.

What will you be responsible for, and what is the purpose of your job?

The purpose of this new role is to oversee the development of the ARDT, which encompasses the existing Clinical Support Team (CST) alongside a huge expansion across the SWP, taking us from a team of fewer than 10 Nurses to more than 20 Research Nurses/Practitioners, Assistant Practitioners and Social Workers. Some of these roles are going to be directly employed by host trusts, namely Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which will enable us to work alongside our Partner Organisations and build upon the community research they have already established.

My role specifically is to develop the strategy and infrastructure to facilitate our team to deliver research in new settings, both inside and outside the NHS. In particular, the ARDT is intended to increase research taking place in care homes, social care and local authority settings, schools, prisons, and a wider range of GP practices - particularly targeting those that will enable us to access our underserved populations.

What do you hope to bring to the role?

I hope to bring passion and enthusiasm, and I want to give everyone involved a voice in shaping this new way of working. The team is full of brilliant knowledge and experience and I want to make the most of this.

Why is the transformation of research important?

The way we’re doing research now, in the existing primary care and secondary care models, works brilliantly for some populations and it has enabled amazing advances in medicine and healthcare. However, we know that certain populations aren’t being represented in clinical research, and this is critically important as it means the results of our studies may not necessarily represent them. The ARDT will bring research to people it hasn’t reached before, meaning we’ll truly be able to achieve ‘evidence based healthcare’, with evidence that reflects everybody.

What would you like to say to the existing CST?

I’ve felt so welcomed by everybody I’ve met so far, and think I’m lucky to have such a supportive, experienced team full of kind and dedicated people. Thank you all for your hard work and support so far, it’s been a pleasure joining the team.      

Where are we with the establishment of the ARDT?

We are at the 6 month mark of a 3-year project, so the majority of the work completed so far has been establishing the Agile team goals and purposes, induction materials, HR processes for hosted team members, settling new starters and lots of recruitment. We have 4 new team members joining us this month alone, and still lots of jobs out to advert or awaiting start dates, so over the next few months we’ll be busy helping our new team members settle in, and growing our portfolio with the studies they’ll be working on. We’re aiming for the vast majority of recruitment to be complete by end of January 2022.