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What's special about being a Specialty Lead

Kieran McCaffety

Dr Kieran McCafferty’s own personal journey has shown a similar trajectory to that of his NHS trust, Barts Health.

The kidney specialist was a clinical academic lecturer from 2010 to 2014, at Queen Mary University of London. Upon becoming a consultant nephrologist in 2014, he felt there was an opportunity in Nephrology at Barts to grow the clinical trials service.

He explained: “In Nephrology we had a long track record of excellent lab-based translational science, but I also felt there was an opportunity to recruit more patients into NIHR portfolio studies.

“In the kidney unit, I was given the chance to develop a portfolio of clinical trials, and we’ve gone from recruiting 70-80 patients a year to 700 patients last year in renal alone.”

Dr McCafferty was approached in 2014 to apply for the Kidney Disorders Specialty Lead role for North Thames. Working for half a day per week, Specialty Leads offer advice and support to people across the patch delivering studies in their field. They act as a bridge between the local research community for that specialty and the Clinical Research Network and can help industry identify suitable sites for studies.

Specialty Leads meet their CRN research delivery managers regularly, hold teleconferences for their specialty, and organise events highlighting research successes in the field.

“I’m passionate about how clinical trials are delivered from ethics, to site feasibility, to overcoming barriers to research delivery along the way,” said Dr McCafferty.

Keeping studies on track to deliver to time and target is a key metric for Renal in North Thames and this relies on good site selection and accurate recruitment targets which he feels he can help with at a local and network level. In addition, his role is also about making North Thames an attractive place for commercial partners to sponsor commercial research.    

Dr McCafferty, whose main research focus is diabetic kidney disease, and more specifically how the heart of those patients is affected by dialysis, has cast his net wider than just his own unit.

In his capacity as Deputy Clinical Director of research and development at Barts Health, he comes into contact – at least indirectly – with the full range of medical specialties.

He wants more patients to “feel empowered” to ask about taking part in research studies. He said: “We need to get to a situation, similar to cancer, where patients expect to take part in clinical trials as part of their routine care.

“We know that everything we do as clinicians is informed by evidence. It can be very humbling to see patients taking part in studies with the aim of helping future patients. We have to make sure we deliver on our research promises.”