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Research Champions programme at local health Trust increases research awareness among staff and patients

research champions at DPT

More than 170 members of staff at Devon Partnership NHS Trust have signed up to become Research Champions in a bid to raise awareness of the benefits of research among health and care workers as well as patients.

Devon Partnership NHS Trusts provides mental health, learning disability and autism services across Devon.

It has been proven that patients cared for in research-active settings have better outcomes and now research staff at Devon Partnership NHS Trust are trying to ensure everyone is aware of the benefits of clinical trials by encouraging clinical staff to fly the research flag.

The Research Champions programme started in 2018 with the aim of building links with clinicians, promoting research across large geographical areas, helping the team to find research keen staff who might be Principal Investigators (PIs) or deliver an intervention in the future, as well as help recruiting participants into studies.

Research Champions at the trust have been offered training and CPD sessions on how to promote research and look for participants as well as talks from local clinical academics. The research team is responsible for delivering sessions and training days for the Champions as well as maintaining regular contact regarding updates, news and opportunities.

Since the programme started three years ago, 15 of the Trust’s Research Champions have gone on to become PIs or delivered a research intervention for the organisation  - with eight new PIs or clinicians delivering research interventions across five studies this year alone.

Sessions and opportunities offered to the Research Champions have so far included eligibility checking training, talks from academic speakers, training on research protocols and delivery, how to make sense of research outcomes, as well as opportunities to speak with participants and clinicians involved in studies.

Ashley Wilkie, Research and Development Manager at Devon Partnership NHS Trust, said: “The programme started because we wanted to create a research active culture within the organisation. We promote the Research Champion programme when we can alongside other things and now have about 170 staff signed up. We also open most sessions up to anyone who is interested so we can spread the word. Our training team help us to manage bookings by making the sessions available for staff to book on them via our internal booking system.We recently did two sessions on understanding the evidence with both of them being oversubscribed.

“Our Communications Team will also promote basically anything we think staff might be interested in on our intranet, in staff bulletins and on our website. We will also send an email to any administrators who manage distribution lists, such as medical education and Occupational Therapist (OTs), as well as to the research champions.

“We do talks to many groups of staff which are always popular. These include dementia nurses on their academic course, at inductions, at medical education sessions, to assistant practitioners, band 3 training course participants and OTs. I also recently did a virtual talk, open to all trust staff, with a study manager from a trial we are running where he talked about the study and I talked about Urgent Public Health research, restart and current studies.”

The research team has just received funding from the trust to provide more research training to clinical staff, a short one-day session to preceptees and an introductory half day session to any trust staff member. They are also writing a three-year plan including research awards and small grants for Quality Improvement projects and evaluations.

Ashley adds: “You need to nurture and look after research positive staff, value and offer them something extra such as training or CPD opportunities. You must make time to promote and communicate with geographically dispersed clinical teams. Keeping in regular contact with our Research Champions is essential."