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North Thames award-winner says research is a "team sport"

A green graphic with a head and shoulders shot of Kieran McCafferty on the left.

While Dr Kieran McCafferty has won an individual award, he doesn’t really see it that way.

“Clinical research is a team sport,” he says. "This award is a recognition of the renal research team at Royal London Hospital, who through the last 10 years, as a result of their dedication and passion, have facilitated more patients from our east London community to take part in clinical trials.”

The award Dr McCafferty speaks of is the Royal College of Physicians (RCP)/NIHR Award in the consultant category. A consultant nephrologist (kidney specialist) at Barts Health NHS Trust, Dr McCafferty is also Renal Disorders Research Specialty Lead at CRN North Thames.

In this latter role, he is responsible for raising the profile of research across the NHS trusts that the network partners with.

He adds: “I like to help people who are newer to research - help them start out and I also encourage other NHS sites to get involved. I’m very passionate about encouraging research activity across North Thames and embedding research so that it’s part of patient care. I’m proud that we’ve been able to do this in my own department, too.”

The RCP/NIHR awards recognise outstanding contributions of NHS consultants and trainees who are active in research.

The awards have a particular focus on:

● how clinicians demonstrate clinical leadership enabling their organisation to increase its participation in clinical studies;
● how they engaged with patients to inform them of new opportunities to participate in clinical research;
● their contribution to successful delivery of clinical research studies, with a particular emphasis on industry (commercial contract) studies.

“My career has always been built out of the need to answer research questions,” explains Dr McCafferty. “From the beginning, I was very fortunate to have a very supportive consultant colleagues. I was given time in my job plan to develop a portfolio of research studies and I was able to build a research team.”

It is from this base that he has developed both his career and the research capacity in the renal team at Barts Health.

He has seen what he calls a “golden age” of kidney medicine over the last 7-8 years, which has ushered in several new treatments for kidney disease. These include SGLT2 inhibitors, which protect the kidneys by lowering blood sugar, causing the kidneys to remove sugar from the body through urine, and mineralocorticoid inhibitors, which help to lower blood pressure. Both of these drugs were trialled at Barts Health.

There is more work to be done, however.

In the UK 7.2 million adults have chronic kidney disease - more than 10% of the entire population. Over the next decade, we are likely to see a 20% increase in people living with kidney disease, alongside a possible doubling of people requiring dialysis, according to a report from Kidney Research UK.

So, research is ever more important. What would he say to those considering a career in research themselves?

He replies: “In my opinion, research should be part of what every healthcare professional should be doing as part of their day-to-day clinical care. We should encourage healthcare professionals to offer patients the opportunity to take part in research at every encounter. I would like to dispel the idea that research is somehow separate from how we look after our patients or how we deliver evidence-based care.

Of the award, NIHR CRN Medical Director Nick Lemoine says: "Clinical leadership is vital for the world-leading performance of the NIHR Clinical Research Network. Each of the consultants and trainees who are prize winners this year have made outstanding contributions to the delivery of research studies in their region and it is wonderful to see the next generation of researchers coming through."

Ramesh Arasaradnam, Academic Vice President, Royal College of Physicians, adds:

“Our winners are some of the most skilled and talented researchers in their field. It’s a true privilege to be able to reward them for the fantastic work they’ve done.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of clinical research, making the recognition of achievements such as those made by our winners all the more important. I hope this will also serve as yet further evidence of the need to embed research within clinical practice.”

Dr McCafferty received his award at a ceremony in London on 18 October.