'Outstanding' research recognised
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) and The British Society for Haematology (BSH) have announced the winners of the 2022 awards. This year, the AHP Researcher of the Year Award has been presented to Paul McLaughlin, of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
Now in its fifth year, the NIHR-BSH Researcher of the Year award is a joint initiative between the two bodies to recognise recent contributions to clinical research efforts made by members of the BSH.
Researcher of the Year 2022
Paul McLaughlin is a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow and Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Haemophilia at the Katharine Dormandy Haemophilia Centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He is also current Chair of the European Association of Haemophilia and Allied Disorders (EAHAD) Physiotherapy Committee and Allied Health Professional (AHP) Representative on the NIHR Haematology CRN, as well as being a member of the UKHCDO (United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Doctors Organisation). Musculoskeletal Working Party
The judging committee was incredibly impressed by Paul’s ‘outstanding research work’ and the supportive research environment he has created for his colleagues and the wider NHS.
Paul actively supports nursing and AHP colleagues in the haemophilia centre to develop confidence and skills in research activity. This was highlighted recently by the successful acceptance of three abstracts for presentation at the World Federation of Haemophilia Congress. He is also an advocate for raising the profile and needs of AHPs within the research community and is delighted that the award flies the flag for Allied Health Professionals.
On a national level, Paul co-facilitates research support sessions at the annual meeting of the UK group of haemophilia physiotherapists, creating an environment where colleagues can share their ideas for research and receive mentorship and guidance to help them develop.
Paul is currently in the final year of a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship, where he is investigating the feasibility of an exercise-based intervention for pain management in people with haemophilia.
As well as informing future research design, the study works towards giving haemophilia patients access to specialist physio care and increasing the support to be physically active. Paul explains:
“Now that treatments for haemophilia patients have restored life expectancy, it’s all about quality of life. This research aims to find something meaningful that can translate to day-to-day care and help patients live the lives they want to live.”
Patients at the core of research
Alongside the coherence of his research and support for colleagues, the committee especially noted the degree of patient inclusion in Paul’s research. Within the PhD, and in his wider research work, Paul has developed an exciting and novel approach to patient involvement.
Viewing the participation of people with haemophilia as key stakeholders, Paul sees patients as ‘co-producers’ of the theory that has underpinned his current feasibility study.
As well as involving the Haemophilia Society and research priorities for bleeding disorders from the James Lind Alliance in his research design, he has embedded patients themselves at every stage.
“The patient is the best expert. They have lived with the disease and have many insights that cannot be gained from just reviewing them in clinic alone.
“When we bring the actual people and the science together, the research creates itself. We can work to determine not just the ‘what’, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, to take the design forward."
Whilst involving people with haemophilia helped identify the interventions and outcomes that mattered, those people also helped inform treatment delivery, engagement and recruitment strategies as well as treatment design.
A person with haemophilia is also part of Paul’s research management team and assists with ‘sense checking’ and editing patient-facing documents and will advise on the best approaches for dissemination of findings to the wider haemophilia community.
This type and degree of patient engagement also later creates interest and willingness to participate in something that has perceived value.
Paul was presented with the award in a special ceremony at the BSH Annual Scientific Meeting in Manchester during the BSH Presidential Session and Medal Lecture on 3 April.
Reflecting on the award, Paul said:
“I was surprised and humbled to be recognised for my academic research work because, I view it as such a necessity.
“It’s brilliant that the awards recognise AHPs. The research pathways in clinical practice are not as developed for us, so it highlights the positive impact of organisations facilitating and embedding research. I hope it encourages others to apply next year, and to get involved.”