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Norfolk carer wins NIHR East of England research award

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Geoff Fenwick, a carer from Norwich, has received the 2022 National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) East of England award for Research Volunteer.

Geoff, who cares for his wife Susie who has dementia, has been given the award in recognition of his efforts to help researchers at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) find new treatments and ways to care for people with dementia and other conditions.

Geoff said:

“My nomination for the award came completely out of the blue, unbeknown to me two members of the Carecoach research team had put me forward. It really was the best 'Thank You ' I could have possibly received for my contributions as a volunteer.  Winning was the icing on the cake - all the Accolades with no Accountability - one of the perks of being a volunteer.”

Geoff has not only participated in many clinical trials for dementia as a volunteer, but he also helped the NSFT team secure almost £2 million funding to run the ‘Carecoach’ study which aims to support carer wellbeing and mental health.

Geoff is Patient and Public Involvement Lead in the team’s Service User Advisory Group and he has also facilitated a dementia forum for patients and carers. He does all this alongside providing a patient voice to help the team plan more widely for the delivery of research – all as a volunteer.

Geoff said:

“Susie and I have been taking part in both clinical and lifestyle research for the best part of nine years. Being proactive in this way helps boost my resilience and my ability to accept and manage the many challenges that Alzheimer's presents.

“Without exception, everyone associated with the research we have taken part in has treated us with respect, understanding and true kindness - well done everybody and keep up the great work. My advice to anyone considering taking part in medical research is: Be a Trailblazer not a Bystander.”

The NIHR CRN East of England Awards ceremony was held at Norwich City Football Club on 6 July. The event saw awards given in recognition of the enormous effort made over the past few years by research teams from across the NHS and social care in the region to find new treatments and ways to care for all, including finding vaccines for COVID-19.

Helen Macdonald, Chief Operating Officer for the NIHR CRN East of England, said:

“It is an absolute privilege to be able to recognise the incredible work of research volunteers like Geoff, and NHS and social care research staff who, together, work tirelessly to help us continue to improve treatments and care for people. Without the input of Geoff and other volunteers like him, our research would not be the best it can be and we are forever grateful to them.”

The NIHR is the one of the nation’s largest funders of clinical research, with funded research staff embedded in NHS and social care organisations across the country.

Data published by the NIHR CRN this month show that research teams based at NHS and social care organisations across the East of England region enrolled more than 88,000 participants (88,862) to 804 NIHR funded and supported clinical research trials in 2021/22, up from 628 in 2020/21 (28% increase).

Nationally, the NIHR CRN annual statistics show that 1,289,937 people took part in 4,623 portfolio studies in England in 2021/22. The NIHR’s funding and support within the NHS and social care has resulted in public research opportunities being available at 100% of all NHS Trusts in England.

Find out more on the NIHR website: https://local.nihr.ac.uk/news/east-of-england-clinical-trials-increased-by-more-than-25-in-the-last-year-data-show/30940

To find out more about all the winners of the 2022 Celebration Awards visit: https://sites.google.com/nihr.ac.uk/celebration-day-2022/award-winners