The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Yorkshire and Humber is one of the regional clinical research delivery arms of the NHS. They operate nationally across England through 15 local branches delivering research in the NHS across all disease areas. The Study Support Service (SSS) is part of the CRN aimed at helping researchers plan, set up and deliver high quality research to time and target. That means that researchers (such as ourselves) can apply for this support which is free of charge, and have professional assistance in setting up Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) groups, identifying sites, ironing out aspects of the study that they know have struggled in previous research, and they also provide some support costs. All you need to be eligible is a peer-reviewed study funded by open competition funding (no matter whether this be £100 grant from a national charity, or a large grant from the NIHR). It also needs to be of benefit to NHS patients and have either university or NHS ethics approval.
I was part of the study support service for the CRN for just over a year. If I had to describe my role in one word it would be ‘networking’. To be successful in the role you had to know everybody in research, or at least try your hardest. A major part of the CRN is to direct researchers to the people and services that can assist them best in their needs. That meant that if they needed more sites, you had to know the people running them. This means that you could link them up and initiate the study in that site. I knew then that I needed to shake hands with everyone I met and meet as many people as possible.
I specialised specifically in mental health research, supporting the set up and delivery of research not only in mental health services, but also the primary care sector including GP practices and care homes. I was also part of an advisory group for the Join Dementia Research service; I worked with the specialty leads of mental health and neurology to increase meaningful research and recruitment strategies, and also developed regional meetings to encourage collaboration.
Prior to my becoming a PhD student I had already met or assisted a few of the members of the dementia team here at Bradford, without realising I’d soon be one of them. I even helped a staff member identify sites for his multi-centre study, and when we met face to face it was like old friends greeting each other. That’s what you call good emailing techniques. Now I’m a PhD student, I am about to apply for their portfolio status myself. However, I have already started using their service. I needed PPI involvement to ensure the questionnaire I have is appropriate for submission to ethics. They helped me set this up and even attended it with me. The advice I have had from them in regards to shaping the questionnaire and known successful recruitment techniques has also been extremely valuable, and I couldn’t thank them enough for their insight.
It is a fantastic service, with incredible people who will do their absolute best to assist researchers in delivering successful research. If you want more information you just have to drop them an Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Wendy Andrusjak
This blog post was not written on behalf of the Clinical Research Network, nor does it contain or represent their views.