The NIHR Clinical Research Network West Midlands (CRN WM) provides the infrastructure that allows high-quality research to take place across the region, including Herefordshire and Worcestershire, so that people can benefit from new and better care and treatments. It helps to increase opportunities for people to take part in research, ensure that studies are carried out efficiently, and provide researchers with the practical support they need to carry out their research.
Hosted by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, the CRN WM makes sure that health and social care research occupies the place it deserves across the West Midlands locality, in Primary and Secondary Care and other settings such as care homes, hospices, prisons and schools.
Find out more on the Network website.
To find studies you may be able to take part in, visit Be Part Of Research.
These case studies give an idea of the Primary Care activity in the Network:
Care Home Research
The CRN West Midlands Study Support Service team responsible for primary care and wider health and social care settings was introduced to the DemECH study in December 2021, by Sandra Prew, ENRICH* National Coordinator, and Nicola Standen, ENRICH West Midlands Care Home Research Facilitator.
The DemECH study is looking at how Extra Care Housing (ECH) can support people to live well with dementia. ECH allows people to live in self-contained accommodation, with access to 24-hour care that is flexible and adapts to changing needs.
Over a fifth of those living in ECH have dementia, yet little is known about what works well and for whom. The project aims to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of different models of ECH (integrated, separate dementia unit, specialist dementia).
Working with nine ECH sites, data was collected to build a descriptive profile of each site, to understand who lives in ECH and how they are supported to live well. At each site, the team interviewed residents with and without dementia, family carers, staff, social care link workers, and adult social care commissioners to help understand the benefits and challenges of different models of ECH.
The ENRICH team initially identified the newly funded study on the School of Social Care Research (SSCR) funding website and reached out to the study team - Teresa Atkinson, Co-Principal Investigator and Dr Rebecca Oatley, Research Associate, based at the University of Worcester. Through the Network’s contacts with Extra Care Housing Schemes the ENRICH Team was able to connect the study team with the Research Manager in one of the schemes and identify an appropriate site at which to undertake the research.
During the meeting they also discussed the collaborative advantages to be gained from adoption on to the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Portfolio and connected the Research Team with the CRN West Midlands Study Support Service through Lauren Thakrar, Study Support Manager.
The study team was supported in applying retrospectively for the Portfolio - this was successfully completed, allowing recruitment to start in early 2022.
Working closely together to resolve problems, meeting regularly to update one another and work to find solutions to keep the study on track, they were able to recruit to time and target, successfully closing with 100% recruitment.
Lauren (pictured) said: “ It was a pleasure to work with Teresa and Becky to help them with their queries. They have passion for broadening research within non-clinical, social care settings and are keen to see this grow in the region; there is a real opportunity to collaborate and learn together. “
Teresa added: “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that organisations, particularly those at the front line of care delivery, are committed first and foremost to their client population. Our needs as researchers, however well intentioned, must allow that those we are asking to participate in studies have their own agendas and needs.
“So we must ensure we are willing to keep repeating what our study sets out to do, articulate the benefits we are trying to achieve, but be respectful of individual and organisational circumstances. Sometimes no response doesn’t mean people aren’t interested. It may mean they haven’t had time to look at our email or we haven’t conveyed its meaning well.”
Are you applying for research funding or about to set up a research study that could benefit from support from the NIHR CRN West Midlands Study Support Service and ENRICH?
CRN West Midlands ENRICH
*ENRICH (Enabling Research in Care Homes) was established in all CRN areas in 2014/15 and brings together care home staff, residents and their families with researchers.The ENRICH Network supports care homes, to become research aware, take part in research and share research findings. In the West Midlands there are currently over 140 Care Homes and Extra Care Housing schemes that are members of the ENRICH Network.
From patients and public, to healthcare assistants, to nurses, doctors, pharmacists and allied healthcare professionals, we all have a role to play in research. After all, new drugs, new processes, new evidence would not exist without our role in research.
My name is Faiza Yahya and I work as a Primary Care Clinical Pharmacist for Dudley Integrated Health and Care Trust (DIHC) and Our Health Partnership (OHP). I started my primary care role working for DIHC over six years ago when it was Dudley CCG. It was always my ambition to work in primary care, although I have also worked in the hospital and community pharmacy sectors. My vision one day is to see all these sectors collaborate for better, seamless patient care.
On reflection, I would say I started seeing the initial impacts and rewards of research from our everyday practice through audits, service evaluations and quality improvements. I could see the fruits of these projects and how they improve patient care and patient safety. I was inspired by senior leaders who had a vision for quality improvement and better population health. I learnt to understand why we had methodical and rigorous structures to drive quality improvement projects forward.
The difference we could make was phenomenal. It awakened my passion to be involved in this and to be able to one day make a difference of my own. I did a lot of reflection on what skills I needed to improve and how I could get involved in this realm, particularly in primary care. I then sought out and started a Health Education England Clinical Academic Research Internship to develop my skills in research.
In terms of clinical trials and research involvement, we often think of commercial trials, industry or those trials based in the hospital sector. We seldom think of primary care research and in the past, we hadn’t really been exposed to it a great deal during our pharmacy undergraduate degrees. The dynamics of healthcare have changed over time and if we want to align with NHS long term plans and the integrated care systems models, we need to start thinking about patient care and research in the community.
I wanted to know more about this so I reached out to the NIHR Clinical Research Network West Midlands and asked the question, ‘how can I get involved? I want to be part of this’. I also reached out to experienced senior pharmacists in my teams who had an interest in driving research forward.
When the DaRE2THINK study was introduced to me, especially with the innovative design of using CPRD for pre-screening, I was very excited to be a part of it! Studies such as this have shown that clinical research is evolving, and non-medics and allied health professionals can and must be a key part of driving research projects forward. Although I am very keen on developing my personal skills, I really want to be able to make a significant contribution to healthcare and motivate others to also develop. Research often requires a collaborative team approach and to use the skills of different healthcare professionals can certainly strengthen research and create the environment where we can all learn from each other.
The DaRE2THINK trial was ideal for me as a pharmacist as the research was on the use of direct oral anticoagulants and I have been able to upskill and extend my scope of practice in the process. I would encourage all pharmacists and allied health care professionals to seek opportunities in research in clinical practice as we know that practices/populations who are engaged in research have better health outcomes.
Hello my name is Ella Thompson. I have been a Practice Manager in Dudley for the last 14 years and for the last four years I have also been working with the NIHR CRN West Midlands as their Practice Manager Research Champion (PMRC).
When I joined my current practice (The Ridgeway Surgery) in 2013 I was keen to engage them in research, alongside a newly recruited salaried GP. Between us we take sole ownership for research within the practice and both of us enjoy having a separate role from our usual primary care activity. As study involvement is well supported by the CRN team, it adds little to our workload and it is a positive experience to be involved with various important research studies. Many of our patients enjoy engaging with research projects; often it can lead to very positive feelings of self-worth for those involved who feel they are giving something back. It’s also viewed positively by the CQC.
So when the CRN advertised for a PMRC I applied, hoping I could maybe give something back and encourage Practice Management colleagues to also become research active. The CRN was keen to increase the engagement of GP practices with NIHR CRN Portfolio of research. The role required me to work alongside their team of GP Research Champions and with members of the CRN team to raise awareness of opportunities to participate in primary care research (especially research delivery in day-to-day practice).
The post was intended to facilitate strengthening of links between Practice Managers, GPs and the CRN primary care specialty delivery team, as well as with university-based primary care research teams. The requirement was to predominantly raise awareness of the Clinical Research Network’s High Level Objectives (HLOs) and support the Primary Care delivery team to achieve these.
I have found the role very rewarding and have successfully increased the amount of practices engaging in research in Dudley, I have also increased Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) involvement with the majority of Dudley practices now signed up to participate. I attend various meetings in order to help advise the CRN about the practicalities of rolling a study out within general practice.
I was won the Rising Star category at the CRN WM Awards two years ago, for which I am very grateful. The CRN team is a lovely group of people, very supportive and friendly and I have very much enjoyed being a small part of their world and helping in any way I can.
If you are interested in becoming involved with research but would like a one to one conversation about it first, to get a real feel for what is involved and if it is for you and your practice, please feel free to ring me on 01902 886501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
CRN WM is committed to delivering high quality training to NHS research staff throughout our region who are involved in the conduct of studies accepted onto the NIHR CRN Portfolio. All courses are advertised and booked via a dedicated training site.
Contact Us: For general enquiries, or to be added to the mailing list for Network Bulletins, please email crnwestmidlands
For specific study-related queries: studysupportpc.