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North East research volunteer honoured as part of the Queen’s jubilee celebrations

David Burgess, a research volunteer from North Tyneside, received a Platinum Champions Award from the Royal Voluntary Service as part of the Queen’s jubilee celebrations in June. David was honoured for his extensive work in helping to improve the early management, rehabilitation and continuing care for stroke patients and their carers.

The Platinum Champions Awards recognise the outstanding contribution of volunteers across the UK. Thousands of people from all over the UK who support a range of causes were nominated. From these nominations, 490 volunteers were hand-picked by a judging panel presided over by The Duchess of Cornwall, and crowned Platinum Champions.

David’s voluntary work began in 2005 while he was caring for his father-in-law, a stroke survivor. They attended a focus group together, evaluating the impact of stroke on individuals and carers and discussing how stroke services could be improved. David observed that many stroke survivors and their carers had become socially isolated through loss of mobility or communication difficulties, which often led to loss of confidence and depression. In response, David helped to set up a stroke support group for people in North Tyneside. He was subsequently co-opted to serve on the Stroke Northumbria Executive Committee.

In 2012, David became a lay member of the Stroke Research Network, working closely with Professor Helen Rogers and Zena Taylor. As part of this role, David drew on his personal experiences of stroke, reviewing documents submitted by researchers with the aim of improving the quality of stroke research. Since then, David has become a key figure in stroke research across the North East.

David is a member of Stroke Voices in Research and has also sat on multiple trial steering committees, giving a service user perspective into the design and delivery of research studies into stroke care and treatment. He also sits on the stroke patient, carer and public involvement panel for the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria and meets monthly with researchers to advise them on their proposed studies.

In 2016, David joined the NIHR National Stroke Specialty Group, serving as a lay member of the Hyperacute Stroke Research Centre (HSRC) Oversight Group. As part of this role, David helps to monitor the research performance of the 13 HSRCs in England. David is also a Research Champion for the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria and participates in public events to promote opportunities to take part in research.

David said of his Platinum Champions Award: “I was both honoured and humbled when I learned that my nomination - by trustees of the stroke support group - had been selected for the Platinum Champions Award.

“As a former nurse teacher, I believed I understood stroke and stroke care. Nevertheless, my experience as a carer for my late father-in-law opened my eyes to the myriad needs of stroke sufferers and their carers. I wasn’t aware of these issues and no amount of ‘book learning’ would ever give that understanding.

“This experience has been at the heart of my engagement with clinicians who strive to improve stroke services through research and the Integrated Stroke Delivery Network (ISDN). All health research has to be grounded in reality and should aim to meet the needs of patients and their carers. It is by engaging with researchers that patients, carers and members of the public can help to ensure that any research is fit for purpose, and ‘it does what it says on the tin’.”

Professor Caroline Wroe, Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria, said: “We are extremely proud of David and his incredible work as a public contributor to stroke research. David has played a vital role in shaping studies with the ultimate aim of improving participant experience and ensuring the research is relevant and appropriate. It is fantastic that his work has been publicly recognised in this way - congratulations from all of us!”

David received a specially designed pin and a signed certificate from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in recognition of his achievements.