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Two Kent, Surrey and Sussex trusts win joint Improvement and Innovation Award for Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health professionals’ (NMAHP) research programmes

Two Kent, Surrey and Sussex trusts win joint Improvement and Innovation Award for Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health professionals’ (NMAHP) research programmes

At the 2019 NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Kent, Surrey and Sussex Partner Awards, Dr Cate Bell and Lee Tomlinson were jointly presented with the Improvement and Innovation Award. Cate and Lee have developed programmes for members of the NMAHP that offer opportunities to work within research to gain experience and knowledge that can be integrated into the clinical practice.

Dr Cate Bell is Head of Research and NMAHP Clinical Academic Programme Lead for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WSFHT) and Lee Tomlinson is Lead Research Nurse and Research and Development Manager for Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT).

The nomination said: ‘KCHFT and WSHFT worked together to develop clinical academic programmes for NMAHP in their separate organisations. While the programmes were different and met the needs of individual staff teams, they worked together to ensure the outputs showed impact and value. This was shared locally across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Cate received a prize for this award last year but it was felt that the collaboration and sharing of the outputs warranted nomination again. CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex is also delighted to see that both Cate and Lee have been awarded places on the 70@70 NIHR Senior Nurse and Midwife Research Leader Programme’.

WSHFT Clinical Improvement Scholarship Programme

Cate devised the WSHFT Clinical Improvement Scholarship programme, which is part of the trust’s Clinical Academic Programme, in collaboration with Health Education England Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The programme aims to support practitioners in combining their everyday clinical roles with development of research, leadership and continuous improvement experience. This ensures that the latest research evidence is integrated into practice which can lead to improvements in patient care, experience and outcomes.

Programme scholars attend the programme for two days a week for 12 months and their time is backfilled. The programme consists of four focused phases – a topic-specific literature search; change management and leadership development; training in clinical improvement and research; and completion of an improvement project and  article for publication – some also develop their own research proposals.

The first cohort started in September 2017 with four participants, and a second cohort of eight started in September 2018. The Clinical Improvement Scholarships support a range of NMAHP’s groups from across the organisation – with nurses, midwives dieticians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists all included.

KCHFT Research Champions

Like the scholars at WSHFT, KCHFT have ‘Research Champions’. The first year of the programme included eleven participants who were completely new to research. The first cohort included a nurse, occupational therapist for learning disabilities, children and young people healthy weight lead, a speech and language therapist, a podiatrist and a health visitor.

The Research Champions receive three days teaching from senior academic colleagues at Canterbury Christchurch University and University of Kent. This is followed up with one-to-one academic supervision with a professor and a mentorship from a senior trust colleague. Champions are expected to work on either a service improvement, development, or an evaluation idea supported by their service lead. They also conduct a literature review and undertake work experience at the University of Kent and with an NHS research delivery team. The programme has received funding for 2019.

We spoke to Cate and Lee about their programmes and how they feel about winning the award.

How do you feel about winning the award?

Lee: “It was an enormous compliment to be nominated and it certainly was a surprise as we were both nominated last year when Cate won. One of the most important things for me was to have the buy-in and recognition from CRN KSS of the difference this type of programme will make to research delivery across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The network recognised that the joint working and sharing of knowledge across the counties is important otherwise initiatives like this will happen in silos and prevent us benefiting from each other's work. Cate shared her work and advice from the start which enabled me to progress this project in my organisation. They are quite different programmes but the barriers and benefits have been the same and it is important learning for colleagues”.

Cate: “I didn’t expect to win again this year but I’m pleased it was awarded jointly as Lee has been doing the same sort of work we’ve been doing at WSFHT. Our organisation is an acute trust and although there are lots of consultants and medical practitioners involved in research there has been little recognition of the untapped resource we have in the NMAHPs.

“Often the reason why NMAHPs don’t become more involved with research is because they don’t know they can. Plus they may not have the confidence to lead on a research study, or the basic knowledge and skills to give them that confidence.”

How did you work together?

Lee: “I spoke to our chief nurse and wanted to see if we could pilot something similar to WSHFT in a community trust. She recognised the difference between our organisations but also the shared learning we could have.”

Cate: “We were linked up by Jane Butler from Health Education England Kent, Surrey and Sussex who funded the WSFHT program and it was a great opportunity to share our experience and work together.”

Why are these types of programmes important?

Lee: “Coming from a community trust, NMAHPs are the majority of our workforce. Without engaging them and inspiring research activity we will not be able to deliver NIHR portfolio or home-grown studies.

“We want people to see that being involved in research does not necessarily mean being on a clinical academic pathway. Confidence-building is important, and barriers or obstacles can come in all sorts of forms – from team members, line managers, organisational structures and expectation, even from themselves. Their confidence, ability and recognition that their research questions are of value, will make them excited and realise the value of their work.”

Cate: “Our programme blends quality improvement and research together. Research is the foundation of quality care and therefore it’s really important that there is a level of involvement with research across the board at all levels – from being confident to read and understand the research literature and to bring that into practice, right through to leading a research project and developing a career as a high level clinical academic.

“Our programme aims to get more people involved in research which can have a massive impact on the quality of care. Subsequently it can lead to greater involvement in answering new questions that arise in everyday practice and are relevant to patients now.

“Our programmes are different because of the different types of organisations we run them in but our collaborative work shows that if you have a key structure you can modify it to suit your organisational needs and still come out of it with the same benefits for patients. A lot of other organisations have been in touch to see how it might work for them.

“These programmes help raise the profile of NMAHPs as a workforce who can contribute to research in a bigger way. Many of the clinicians coming through our programme are people who have never considered doing research or going on to do something like a PhD. These types of programs provide a big benefit for the network because it supports the growth of our own clinical researchers and that is what we need as a network.”

What are your long-term goals for your programs?

Cate: “One of my long-term goals is to have made it easier for NMAHPs to become involved and feel excited about research. We have some great clinical practitioners who do not want to leave clinical practice yet want a career which allows them to get involved with research and stay close to clinical practice so to make the experience and outcomes better for patients”.

Lee: “I’d like to achieve true nursing priority setting for research across the network. This will be a challenge but will be something fantastic to look at during the 70@70 program as it will give us time and space to work with people in our organisations.”

Caroline Cowley, CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex Lead Nurse and Workforce Development Lead said: “These types of programmes are essential to build research activity across our networks and enable more people to be offered the opportunity to take part in research, and bring new and innovative treatments to our patients. They tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience within the NMAHP workforce, who now recognise that they can be involved in research and continue their clinical practice while doing so. Not only that but it enables the NHS to keep hold of this valuable workforce which is essential in today's climate.”


* left to right the photos shows: Cate Bell, WSFHT; Dr Kate Jones, Chief Operating Officer NIHR Clinical Research Network Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Professor Geeta Menon, Clinical Director at the NIHR Clinical Research Network in Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Lee Tomlinson, KCHFT and Sine Littlewood, Head of Business Development & Marketing (non-commercial) at the NIHR CRN.