From taking part in its first database search in January 2010, the Wellfield Medical Centre in Crumpsall, north east Manchester, has progressed to undertaking its first commercial trial as an investigator-led unit just 12 months later.
In the run up to this the Centre has taken part in many aspects of a number of different research trials, ranging from questionnaire studies, to being a Participant Identification Centre (PIC), to expressing an interest in studies, all the time building up its experience and knowledge of the research process.
The GP leading on research at the centre is Dr Simon Henshall. He said: “Most of the work we’ve done so far has involved database searches, being used as a PIC site to pass on information sheets to patients, and completing expressions of interests. But when we first looked at taking part in research we wanted to work up to being an investigator unit and now we’ve started our first commercial trial and we’re waiting to recruit our first patient so it’ll be a very interesting process.”
Good clinical practice
However, before the Centre could take part in research all staff had to carry out Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training. Dr Henshall said: “The training was quite a revelation in terms of the process of taking part in research as well as the governance issues involved.”
With its first study as an investigator-led unit underway, the centre is looking at further trials to take part in, as long as they are right for the Centre’s patients and staff.
Dr Arthur Finke is another partner at the practice. He said: “We’re at an interesting point at the moment. The research we’ve done so far hasn’t required a too much input in terms of extra staff time. However, we’re perfectly aware that if you look at practices that are mature in this field they’ve had significant staff input into trials. So the challenge for us over the next 6 to 12 months is to manage the centre staff so that it maintains people’s interest in research but at the same time it doesn’t mean they’re doing too much and burning out. Perhaps the biggest challenge is managing the cost of taking on a specific nurse for research when trials aren’t guaranteed, but this something we’re looking at.”
Positive response from patients
As well as a good reaction from centre staff, the response from patients has also been positive. Dr Henshall said: “On the whole, people seem to respond quite positively to taking part in research. It may be because if we are taking the time to discuss the research with them then it indicates the level of engagement we have in the study and the benefits it could bring to others.
"We also have research as an agenda item at our weekly practice meetings to make sure it’s on everyone’s minds.”
Wellfield Medical Centre is one of 30 GP practices in Greater Manchester that receive funding from NIHR Greater Manchester Comprehensive Local Research Network (GM CLRN) to support clinical research in primary care across both commercial and academic studies that are adopted onto the NIHR Portfolio. It has around 8400 patients with five GP Partners, three practice nurses, two managers, and eleven administration staff. It is also a teaching practice, training doctors and medical students across all stages of their education.