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Introducing the Direct Delivery Team: A flexible workforce to support research in underrepresented areas

The NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria has recruited ten new staff members to the Direct Delivery Team: a brand-new workforce that seeks to support the delivery of research across a broad range of settings, particularly outside of hospitals.

The new staff will be based across three hubs in Newcastle, Middlesbrough and North Cumbria and will work closely with partners across the health and care system with the aim of building a more inclusive research infrastructure across the region. Leading the team is Clare Aitken, Direct Delivery Team Manager for the Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria, who has extensive leadership experience from working in various sectors at a senior level.

Clare is delighted with how the team is coming together: “The interview process was thorough and very competitive with a high calibre of candidates. Everybody performed exceptionally well and I am particularly grateful to my colleagues in the wider team who supported the recruitment process.

“Our new recruits have an excellent blend of technical and soft skills including high-end experience of delivering research in a variety of challenging settings, management and leadership skills, communication and knowledge of the Clinical Research Network and its wider context. This balance of skills across all levels of seniority will be a great asset to the team.

“One thing all team members have in common is their enthusiasm and drive to learn and develop together as a team. As a new initiative, there is plenty of scope to shape the direction of the Direct Delivery Team into something that will have a positive, meaningful impact on health and care for people in the North East and North Cumbria.”

The Direct Delivery Team was formed when the Clinical Research Network received funding from the Department of Health and Social Care to create a new workforce that could support priority research across broader settings including public health, social care and community settings in each region of England.

For Clare Aitken, this brief presents both opportunities and challenges: “I have two long-term goals for the North East and North Cumbria’s Direct Delivery Team. The first is to improve access to research for people outside of hospital settings, including those who are underrepresented, be that for geographic, demographic or other reasons. The second is to facilitate the delivery of research studies that aim to improve health and wellbeing outcomes and reduce health inequality for people in our region.

“One of the challenges we face, due to the breadth of our remit, is to define a meaningful scope to our work that will deliver results. As we grow through our first year, we will reflect on successes, challenges and lessons learned to define ongoing areas of focus. In the meantime, we will seek to build partnerships with key people and organisations in the health and care system and in local communities where we would like to strengthen the research support we offer.”

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