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Research event in Wales helps guide pharmacy staff to turn early ideas into research projects

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John Harris is principal pharmacist research, development & audit at Princess of Wales Hospital, Wales

Source: Courtesy of John Harris

Once speakers had introduced the day to delegates, each team gave an overview of their project before having a one-to-one session with an RDCS consultant

A research event in Cardiff, held on sunny 14 June 2018, was organised by the Research Strategy Implementation Group (RSIG). The RSIG was formed to support Pharmacy Research Wales’s five-year strategy (2015–2020) ‘A pathway to leadership in multi-disciplinary health and care research’. 

The aim of the day was to bring together enthusiastic potential researchers currently working as pharmacy staff across Wales so that they could start building a research community. It would also allow them to be exposed to some of the support infrastructure around research that is currently available in Wales.  Supporting the day was the Research Design and Conduct Service (RDCS), a Welsh government funded organisation that has the remit to help healthcare practitioners develop high quality research funding proposals.

Invites to the event were cascaded via the Welsh Pharmacy Research & Development (R&D) leads network. R&D lead pharmacists were asked to nominate a “+1” from their health board and attend as a team bringing a budding idea for future research. These ideas would then be explored in detail by the group facilitated by consultants from RDCS. Advice was also given, working through a pro-forma template, on what next steps to take on return to base. 

The introduction to the day was from Sarah Hiom, chair of RSIG and All-Wales specialist pharmacist for R&D, who welcomed the group with a brief presentation outlining how the five-year strategy is enabling pharmacy staff to become more involved in research studies. From its inception and stakeholder meeting in 2014, launch in 2015 and recent links with Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) and RDCS, the strategy is shaping the future of pharmacy research in Wales. The majority of health boards in Wales now have a pharmacy R&D lead and RSIG has developed a job description and a network to allow staff in these roles to fully develop.

The next speaker was Berwyn Owen, chief pharmacist at Betsi Cadwaladr UHB, who spoke via videoconference to give a personal (and very honest!) account of his early years dabbling in research as a young pharmacist. He also outlined the priorities for the Chief Pharmacists Group in Wales and drew our attention to the recent Welsh Government’s “A Healthier Wales” report and encouraged all to take heed of the priorities for health and social care. Berwyn is also the Welsh Chief Pharmacist Committee sponsor of RSIG.

Representing the academic interface, Delyth James, principal lecturer in health psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University, gave an account of a scoping event in 2017 that brought together stakeholders in pharmacy research to give their views on the attributes needed to fulfil the new R&D lead roles in Wales. Subsequently, a poster detailing the event was accepted for exhibition at the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) World Congress in Glasgow this year. Delyth also brought forward ten key messages for a successful outcome to research which included building relationships with multidisciplinary teams, fostering collaboration and accomplishing a track record in research.

The final presentation was given by Sue Channon, director of RDCS, South East Wales, who highlighted the support that RDCS can offer to NHS staff in Wales. Sue used examples from her own career as a clinical psychologist, taking a small feasibility study in paediatric diabetes to a full multicentre trial with over 700 subjects, to show how clinicians can take the first steps to becoming researchers. 

Introductions over, the main thrust of the day began with each team giving an overview of their project before having a one-to-one session with an RDCS consultant. The overviews allowed the audience to choose which sessions they wanted to sit-in on.  Topics discussed ranged from the role of pharmacy staff in specialist clinics, to nursing home medication plans and repeat prescribing systems.  More specialist areas such as mental health also had representation. The dynamic conversations that followed were full of interesting debate and more signposting to other professionals who can help the projects on their way. At the end of the sessions, the teams had agreed individual action plans consisting of three priorities to take their projects on to the next level.

The final part of the day involved sharing of the learning between the teams. Sarah Hiom then offered advice on how to put research into a personal development plan utilising resources such as RPS Advanced Level Framework, NLIAH Advanced practice portfolio and the RPS REET toolkit.

The event was well attended, with pharmacy staff from all health boards in Wales being represented. In addition, there were five members of RDCS staff making around 30 people in total. There was very positive feedback from the day, delegates gave an overall 9/10 satisfaction score, with the RDCS consultants being especially praised for their input.

There are plans to repeat the event each year so if you live in Wales and have potential research ideas at a very early stage please speak to your health board’s R&D lead!

About the author:

John Harris is principal pharmacist for research, development and audit at Princess of Wales Hospital, Wales. 

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