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London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex Stroke Research Conference

Over 90 stroke researchers from London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex attended a conference to learn about and discuss stroke research happening across the region, the country, and internationally.

The event was hosted by the Stroke Research Specialty Leads from CRN North Thames, CRN South London, CRN North West London, and CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Professor David Werring, Specialty Lead for CRN North Thames chaired the morning session. Sean Shillito, Research Delivery Manager at CRN North West London spoke about the stroke research landscape in London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The Pan-London and Kent, Surrey, Sussex region is well-positioned for stroke research, delivering 28% of the national stroke portfolio, and having recruited 29,570 participants to studies since 2014/15.

Dr Ajay Bhalla, Stroke Specialty Lead for CRN South London gave a presentation on ‘The impact of NIHR studies on the National Clinical Guidelines for Stroke 2023’. Evidence from several stroke studies supported by the NIHR has influenced the 2023 National Clinical Guidelines for Stroke, published in April. NIHR research has enhanced the evidence base over the last seven years since the 2016 version of the guidelines. Studies such as the Wake Up trial, TWIST (Safety and efficacy of tenectplase in patients with ‘wake-up stroke’ assessed by non-contrast CT), the SWIFT Direct trial, and OPTIMAS are included in the guidelines.

Attendees then heard from Dr Liqun Zhang, from St George’s Hospital, London who described how COVID-19 affected stroke research delivery at the Trust. When all stroke research was paused the team started to do remote follow-up and upload of data and made themselves available to all participants at all times. The team worked flexibly and this has continued since the pandemic.

Professor Chris Price, NIHR National Stroke Lead, then gave the headlines from the NIHR stroke portfolio. 10,184 participants were recruited to 98 stroke studies in 2022/23. There will be a national focus on growing the stroke rehabilitation portfolio, with NIHR HTA and EME commissioned calls being announced soon.

Professor Price was followed by Dr Soma Banerjee, from Imperial College Healthcare, London who talked about ‘Mechanical Thrombectomy: Changing the Landscape for Hyper-acute Care’.

After lunch, Professor David Werring and Dr. Prapa Kanagaratnam, from Imperial College Healthcare participated in a debate entitled: For patients with intracerebral haemorrhage and atrial fibrillation what is the optimal preventative strategy: Direct Oral Anticoagulants or Left Atrial Appendage Closure?

Both advocated the importance of using evidence to make a judgement about treatment and using research results to back up arguments for and against a treatment route. After closing arguments, attendees were asked to vote and they overwhelmingly voted for Direct Oral Anticoagulants as the treatment option they would choose for their patients.

Attendees then heard about the benefits of the Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme in Stroke Research from Dr Kath Pasco. Dr Pasco is CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex Co-specialty Lead for Stroke, based at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust and has supervised Associate PIs. She spoke about how the scheme works to support clinicians to get involved in research and the benefits to colleagues taking part. 16 stroke studies are signed up to the Associate PI Scheme, with 17 Associate PIs.

Dr Abinas Gurung, of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, has undertaken the Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme and talked about his experience. Dr Gurung had little experience and knowledge of research and wanted to learn more about it. He spoke to a research nurse at the Trust and was given information about the scheme. After finding a study to work on - OPTIMAS - and PI David Hargrove, he put himself on the delegation log and undertook some of the PI’s responsibilities. Being an associate principal investigator provides valuable experience and networking opens up more opportunities. He has been approached to work on more studies.

Dr Iain Marshall, from King’s College, London and a south London GP, then spoke about the health inequalities in stroke and the research opportunities. Dr Marshall presented on the extent of the inequalities that exist in people who experience a stroke between and within countries.

The final speaker was Jason Parker who spoke movingly about his recovery from a stroke and the effect that having the stroke has had on his mental health. Hearing from a stroke patient always helps to remind researchers about why they do research, and the life-changing results that can come from research.