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Making research happen: the transformation of Good Clinical Practice training

Making research happen: the transformation of Good Clinical Practice training

Good Clinical Practice (GCP) is a guiding set of ethical, scientific and practical standards to which all clinical research is conducted. It provides researchers with a solid foundation for their career and ensures that they are focusing on two main principles: keeping patients safe and collecting the highest quality data.

In this interview Kelly Adams, CRN Wessex Workforce Development Lead, reflects on a decade of delivering GCP training, describing how the programme has evolved for the better:

It’s made research safer, increased the quality of the research being undertaken and allowed so many more opportunities for patients to get involved in research that simply would not have been there before.

Prior to 2010, people struggled to get consistent access to good quality GCP training. It was expensive and very few people could attend the limited courses available.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Coordinating Centre (CRNCC) recognised the limiting impact that this was having on research. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to research – they simply couldn’t reliably access the key training needed to do so.

Research trials or studies were being hampered because the teams running them couldn’t access GCP training – which is a key requirement for most research staff before many research studies can go ahead.

We wanted to do something to address the gap between supply and demand when it came to establishing trials and speeding up the set-up process. It was obvious that change was needed to increase the availability of GCP training but essential that the quality of the training and resources available were not compromised.

After consultation and collaboration with GCP experts including doctors, nurses, research and development teams and a range of other research staff across the country, the key learning outcomes that individuals needed to successfully achieve through their GCP training was agreed.

Creating a standardised set of slides and re-thinking how the training was delivered, we were able to change both the delivery methods and the success of GCP training across the UK.

Training was made interactive and fun. We used props, developed practical activities to apply newly learned skills and knowledge, introduced breakout sessions and discussions and tried to create an engaging and memorable training experience for all participants regardless of their professional role or personal learning styles.

Initial evaluations were outstanding and paved the way for the future refinements and developments to the courses we teach today. The continued feedback we get from our attendees validates that it’s the right approach and the success of the training programme also shows the impact it’s having, and has had, on people, their development and research delivery.

Access to online learning and digital resources has become paramount during the pandemic and we’d already highlighted how important it was to grow and develop what we could offer our learners.

Nationalising our approach

When we began in 2010, we didn’t have a centralised learning management system. All courses were managed locally, which meant that people could only access courses local to them and had to wait for longer periods for another session to become available should all courses be fully booked.

We upgraded in 2011 to a national learning management system, where all registered learners had access to the database of training courses available - allowing participants to see courses country-wide and CRNs to see who had undertaken courses.

We quickly reached capacity on this learning management system and within three years, in 2014, had to upgrade to a new system called NIHR Learn which currently has 300,000 live accounts. What began as a way to increase and coordinate GCP training has evolved into something much larger than I ever could have foreseen.

18 months ago CRN Wessex collaborated with a number of other LCRNs to employ a Digital Learning Designer – in hindsight one of the best decisions we could have made. Their role is to curate and create high quality and diverse online research learning.

Access to online learning and digital resources has become paramount during the pandemic and we’d already highlighted how important it was to grow and develop what we could offer our learners.

People can access videos, digital learning resources, online training courses and have virtual contact with training facilitators all through the online system which makes it an invaluable resource for facilitating GCP training with no geographical limitations.

Our Digital Learning Designer has also worked with Chief Investigators (CIs) or Urgent Public Health (UPH) studies to create rapid access to novel learning to support UPH delivery. It’s been an amazing experience!

Building a solid foundation

Part of the success of the programme has been establishing a training programme to aid the development of a network of facilitators, who can then go out and facilitate the face-to-face GCP courses.

When I took on the role of GCP Programme Lead for Wessex 10 years ago we only had two facilitators in the region, and one of them was me. Now we have 16 active facilitators and four part-way through their training.

It takes years of experience to gain the knowledge necessary to become a facilitator so we knew that running training and development to grow the number of facilitators was an essential element of the success of the national and local GCP programmes.

Now we have so many more options to train research teams and can provide an expert GCP trainer to NHS organisations and GP practices if they don’t have their own ‘in-house’ training facilitators.

Undoubtedly, the collective efforts of all GCP facilitators across the country has helped us to give people greater access to standardised and high quality GCP training.

It’s made research safer, increased the quality of the research being undertaken and allowed so many more opportunities for patients to get involved in research that simply would not have been there before.

I really enjoy being part of the local and national GCP programme – when all the leads and facilitators come together we are always talking about how we can grow and develop the training we offer. Without such passionate and enthusiastic people, research would suffer – I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of it.