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THIS Institute report explores how NHS staff can get involved in research

THIS Institute report explores how NHS staff can get involved in research
Daniel Punch
Communications Manager

A new report from THIS Institute highlights the valuable role of NHS staff in research and explores how the full potential of their involvement could be better realised.

Involving NHS staff in research details the many ways NHS staff are making their mark on the research process – from designing studies, to collecting data, to disseminating and implementing research findings.

“NHS staff have so much to offer to healthcare research because they live the health system every day,” says THIS Institute Deputy Director Dr Rebecca Simmons, one of the authors of the report. “Their experience gives them tremendous insight into how things actually work in healthcare, and they are strongly motivated to help make the NHS the best it can be.”

Produced in partnership with RAND Europe, THIS Institute’s report identifies some of the key reasons NHS staff get involved in research, including the desire to improve care. It also describes some of the barriers to active involvement, ranging from lack funding and support through to a tendency for research opportunities to be offered to certain healthcare professions and specialties. NHS staff are also stretched thin and short of time.

“Research about the NHS needs expertise from people in the NHS. It’s important to explore how a broader range of healthcare staff can lend their expertise to healthcare research,” says Sonja Marjanovic, another author of the study who serves as project leader and head of RAND Europe’s partnership with THIS Institute.

NHS staff have so much to offer to healthcare research because they live the health system every day

Overall, the report says that evidence about involving NHS staff in research is limited. Dr Simmons says new and targeted approaches to involving NHS staff will be needed.

“We’re going to have to be bold if we want to realise the potential of NHS staff in research,” Simmons says. “That means acknowledging the overstretched reality of today’s NHS, and working together to support staff involvement.”

This report is the first of two from THIS Institute about involvement in research. The second report will look at patient and public involvement, and will be published in Spring 2019.


Read the report


What they’re saying

“In recent years, a more diverse range of healthcare professionals are getting involved in research, and many allied health professional colleges are now recognising research within their career frameworks. But staff engagement is likely to remain a challenge within pressurised health settings, and a lack of involvement of frontline staff could mean that their valuable input is overlooked.”
Michael Moore, Advanced Clinical Practitioner (Paramedic)


Jocelyn Cornwell“NHS staff should be involved in health service research, especially research into quality improvement, as they are the people we expect to act on the results. In real-life situations, care is delivered by multi-disciplinary teams, supported by administrators and managers. It would be great (or I’d like to see) to see more opportunities in health services research open to participation from more staff and staff from a wider range of disciplines.”
Jocelyn Cornwell, Chief Executive of The Point of Care Foundation


Carrie MacEwen“It is recognised that research active hospitals and departments have better clinical outcomes. Similarly health-related research undoubtedly benefits from the input of frontline NHS staff, of all grades and professions, to reach its maximum potential. The relationship is mutually beneficial and steps must be taken to identify the time and resource to support its further development.”
Professor Carrie MacEwen MD, FRCOphth, FRCS, FFSEM, FRCPE, FCOptom, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges


Dr James McGowan, Academic Clinical Fellow“NHS staff want to provide the highest quality and safest care possible for patients and recognise the importance of evidence-based practice in achieving that goal. People who work in healthcare already make valuable contributions to research, but the potential of the NHS workforce to improve care is yet to be fully realised. If NHS staff can be more broadly and effectively involved in research processes, they can make essential contributions to the evidence base that underpins their day-to-day work.”
Dr James McGowan, Specialty Registrar in Public Health Medicine and NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow, THIS Institute

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