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Support for research in the NHS

What services are available in the NHS to help deliver research? Read this article to understand more about the role of research delivery teams.
A young healthcare worker sits and talks with mature woman looking at a book in a kitchen.
© Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Most NHS Trusts will have a Research Delivery team who can help coordinate and support research activity that involves that specific organisation.

Research delivery teams will support research active doctors, nurses and allied health professionals working in their respective organisation to safely deliver clinical research projects. Often these will be national or international projects with several NHS organisations involved, identified from a national portfolio of NIHR approved studies.

The Clinical Research Network (CRN) also assists NHS Trusts to identify potential new studies from both academic and commercial sponsors. At Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, for example, the delivery team also supports studies designed locally by clinicians and academics linked to our Trust.

Input from the delivery team means that clinical staff at all levels, some of whom may lack experience in research, can be supported to get involved. This helps extend opportunities for services users, patients, carers and staff across the entire geography of the Trust to get involved in research.

Delivery teams will usually consists of research nurses and research practitioners, data managers and administrators; together the team supports clinicians through the various stages of setting up and delivering a research study.

Stage 1: Decide if the study feasible for our Trust

A thorough feasibility review is crucial to ensure we have the necessary facilities, services and resources to safely deliver a study. Based on individual study protocols, the delivery team will consider:

  • Do we have the right kind of clinical service or pathway within our Trust, which would allow us to identify service users / carers / staff who may be eligible to take part
  • Do we have access to relevant support services such as pharmacy (if the study involves medications) or imaging (if the study involves scans such as MRI or X-Ray)
  • Do we have staff with the relevant skills or training (for example if the study involves a delivering a particular therapy or clinical assessment)
  • Do we have the necessary equipment (for example if the study requires storage of frozen blood samples)

Stage 2: set up the study

Study set up from a delivery perspective takes place in parallel with the Trust’s governance approval process. The delivery team will work closely with the research sponsor and the relevant clinical team to ensure the following are in place:

  • A strategy to meet the sponsor’s recruitment target. Strategies may include study promotion using posters and fliers in clinical areas and the local community via social media; screening of clinics; outreach to voluntary sector support groups and GP practices; depending on the nature of the study recruitment strategies may also involve engagement with non-NHS sectors such as care homes, schools or prisons
  • Creation of data management plans to ensure all of the data required for the study is collected. These plans will help to protect the integrity of the research data, so crucial for any study, by ensuring the data is accurate, timely, complete and confidential.
  • Completion of study specific training by those involved in the study. For example training around the study protocol, use of study databases or assessment scales

Stage 3: deliver the study

Once the study has passed through the Trust approval process, the delivery team will work alongside the clinical team to recruit participants and collect the data. With oversight from the Principal Investigator, the delivery team will ensure all study related procedures such as questionnaires, health assessments and medications are administered safely and in accordance with the study protocol. The delivery team will also:

  • Act as point of contact for study participants, supporting their journey through the study
  • Guide and support the clinical team, acting as an expert resource
  • Maintain accurate study records
  • Help to resolve any data queries and coordinate any safety reports
  • Review and adapt recruitment strategies as required
  • Support with closing the study once the project has finished, and archiving of documentation
© Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
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