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Talented North West cohort completes NIHR’s Research Scholars Programme

The latest cohort to complete a successful NIHR development programme have described how it has already been a game changer for their careers. 

The Research Scholars Programme was created to help equip health and care professionals from across the North West with the tools to become the Principal and Chief Investigators of the future.

Cohort 4 featured 16 scholars drawn from nine NHS trusts and a wide variety of consultant medical and senior Allied Health Professional roles. 

Their places on the programme are funded by the NIHR Clinical Research Networks for the North West Coast and Greater Manchester with match-funding from their employer. This gives them one day a week of protected time to enable them to design, develop  and deliver NIHR research in their service. 

The programme also provides a comprehensive training programme from the CRN and guidance from a mentor who is an experienced Principal or Chief Investigator. A Dragon’s Den-style session is just one of the special sessions to feature in the face-to-face workshops held once a month. 

The scholars commemorated the completion of their two-year journey with a celebration day held at Bruntwood Park, Warrington, on 4 December 2023. 

Professor Enitan Carol, founder of the Research Scholars Programme and Clinical Director of CRN North West Coast, said:

“It is important we invest in the Research Scholars Programme because there is so much talent in our NHS trusts across the North West. We have a number of senior clinicians who are research-active, who are passionate about research and who want to do research, but they don’t have the protected time. We offer them that protected time one day a week, and also offer the peer support, mentorship and tools they need in terms of training and development to be able to be successful researchers in the NHS.”

Matt Kenyon, a Cohort 4 scholar and a physio at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: 

“For physios embarking on a career in research, it often feels like you are entering this dark maze. But coming on the Research Scholars Programme gave me the peer support from other like-minded clinicians who want to make a difference, and these clinicians were inspirational. So the number one thing for me is the support of the other scholars. It has been absolutely fantastic and something that I will take away to support me through the rest of my research career.”

Rajarshi Mukherjee, a Cohort 4 scholar and Consultant Surgeon at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“The Research Scholars Programme has been amazing for providing me, as an NHS research-active consultant, protected research time to further my research work and collaborations as well as develop the network of key collaborators that are getting active and involved with my research in the region. So it has been great for bouncing ideas off each other and I have thoroughly enjoyed it over the last two years.”

Bil Kirmami, a Cohort 4 scholar and Consultant Surgeon at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“It is really difficult to articulate in a short space of time what two years of ring-focused training can achieve, but it has taken me to places that I could not have imagined, and has really developed my research into something that I hope will not just become standout in the UK, but also meaningful worldwide.”

Hiren Divecha, a Cohort 4 scholar and Consultant Surgeon at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“I do not think I would be where I am today if it was not for being a successful candidate for the Research Scholars Programme. I hope to continue to grow and develop from the foundation that I have been able to create through this programme and to continue developing and leading research ideas within my trust and within the Greater Manchester area.”