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Why research is for everyone

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In the blog ‘Interning at the National Institute for Health Research’ (NIHR), we touched on the vision, mission and aims of the NIHR alongside the role of the research nurses1. Here, we explore why and how pharmacists can get involved in promoting research to patients and the wider public.

Pharmacists involved in research can make pioneering contributions to knowledge, challenge current practice and expand horizons. Clinical research has an impact on everyone’s lives, from the evidence-based guidelines used by healthcare professionals to the everyday medicines reaching patients2,3.

Why should pharmacists get involved in research?

By Baguiasri Mandane

Improved quality of care for patients

  • Research helps to answer uncertainties and fill gaps in medical knowledge;
  • Through improved knowledge, better treatment options can be developed for the future;
  • For some patients, clinical trials may mean accessing potentially life-saving new treatments;
  • Patients are actively engaged in their own care by giving them a choice;
  • Patients increasingly want to know more about clinical trials. In 2016/2017, more than 665,000 participants were involved in clinical research studies supported by the NIHR. This is a 10% rise compared with the previous year4.

Professional and academic growth for pharmacists

  • Research challenges professionals to think in new ways by gaining in-depth knowledge;
  • Working alongside a multi-disciplinary team helps to advance knowledge in the field of interest;
  • Pharmacists can develop problem-solving, oral and written communication and teamworking skills;
  • Pharmacists can clarify and advance personal career ambitions and goals;
  • Research offers the opportunity to be part of a national movement in advancing future treatment options for patients;
  • Research offers the chance to publish research findings at professional conferences or co-author on publications3,5.

How can pharmacists help with research?

Research can take place anywhere, from hospital and community to academia and prison-based settings. Pharmacists can get involved in clinical research through various mediums; for example, by:

  • Familiarising themselves with the UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG) website and understanding more about the various research studies taking place throughout the country3,5;
  • Getting in touch with the local NIHR department, to see how they can get involved. This could include anything from handing out questionnaires in community pharmacies through to carrying out screening searches to identify potential patients for research studies;
  • Signposting patients to appropriate support networks (for example, the UKCTG or NIHR website);
  • Actively designing project ideas and proposing these to the NIHR and/or the local research and development departments;
  • Browsing through the Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK) website and considering the grants and bursaries available for pharmacists to get involved in research;
  • Being involved in local and national initiatives such as the ‘I Am Research’ campaign and raising awareness of research to patients, carers and the public (for example, through awareness events, leaflet distribution, coffee mornings);
  • Proactively developing research knowledge through various courses available on Future Learn, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Research Ready programme, NIHR Clinical Research Network, and many others.

Research insight: a quality assurance manager’s perspective

By Bejal Gosai

The need for a dedicated quality assurance (QA) role in research is often overlooked by some research centres but it is an essential cog in the management of clinical trials and ensuring basic principles of the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use Good Clinical Practice are observed.

I have been in my current role for two years, and I am constantly faced with challenges. Where some may see the position of a QA manager as boring or tedious, I have always felt that ensuring internal QA is the base for establishing excellent standards in constant preparation for statutory and external audits. Standards and accreditations make us more attractive to external stakeholders, and, simply, invite more business!

My daily role involves auditing clinical trials, laboratories and bio-banks sponsored by commercial and non-commercial organisations; arranging and delivering training based on shortfalls in audit findings; managing temperature monitoring and equipment calibrations; spot-checking the trials facility for compliance to regulations from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; writing standard operating procedures; collating patient satisfaction surveys; answering QA-related queries; and liaising with the research and innovation department.

I see QA as a positive instrument in maintaining international quality standards, protecting the rights of patients, and demonstrating reproducibility and credibility of findings. Research is a vital part of the development of new therapies and practice in years to come. Every individual should have the opportunity to access research, and it should be a pathway option to all.

How do patients see clinical research?

Feedback from patients at the Hope Clinical Trials Facility, based at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, suggests that the experience of taking part in research is upbeat, and we should remove negativity surrounding research that suggests ‘we are experimenting’. During my research career, which spans 12 years, I have learnt that trials are still taboo for many ethnic communities, and in a city as ethnically diverse as Leicester, there should be more education to expel such thoughts. The benefits of taking part in research studies include access to novel treatments, which may not be available for years, but also the level and frequency of medical care is elevated to ensure there is minimal experience of adverse reactions, if any.

How can the NIHR research internship help?

The NIHR research interns’ placement is an optimistic programme that constructively engages individuals early on in their careers to immerse them in research and instil them with confidence to serve as ambassadors of the future

I recommend that this becomes a routine part of every junior postholder’s early training, no matter what medical or healthcare discipline they pursue. We should all champion research in the UK to ensure we are world leaders in offering cutting-edge healthcare options.

References:

1. National Institute for Health Research. Vision, Mission and Aims. 2017. Available at: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/about-us/our-purpose/vision-mission-and-aims/ (accessed July 2017)

2. The George Washington University. Why Get Involved in Undergraduate Research? 2017. Available at: https://undergraduate.research.gwu.edu/why-get-involved-undergraduate-research (accessed July 2017)

3. UK Clinical Trials Gateway. Why take part in a clinical trial? 2017. Available at: https://www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk/clinical-trials/why-take-part-in-a-clinical-trial/ (accessed July 2017)

4. National Institute for Health Research. Key Statistics 2016/17. 2017. Available at: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/about-us/how-we-are-managed/managing-centres/crn/key-statistics.htm (accessed July 2017)

5. UK Clinical Trials Gateway. Why take part in a clinical trial? 2017. Available from: https://www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk/clinical-trials/why-take-part-in-a-clinical-trial/ (accessed July 2017)

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