The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is the largest Trust in Greater Manchester and has successfully increased the amount of research it carries out over the last two years. With over 50 NIHR Portfolio research studies currently active in cancer research, nurses and consultants are keen to develop this further for the benefit of NHS patients. Steve Woby (pictured right), Head of Research and Development, shares his experience of helping to grow research at the Trust.
“At the Pennine Acute Hospitals it has been important for us to boost the amount of research trials our patients take part in. We want to contribute to some of the ground breaking studies taking place in the country today – not only to benefit our patients but also to help improve the situation of others.
“We started working more closely with GM CLRN two years ago to find out the types of cancer trials taking place in the UK and identify how Pennine Acute could get involved. Initially we were particularly keen to open those studies that demonstrated the greatest recruitment potential. Once we’d established that it was feasible to carry out quite a number of these trials in our hospitals we were able to set up the studies quickly and recruit patients onto them fairly easily.
“We now have a very proactive and driven team of research nurses and trial administrators here who are constantly working with their consultant colleagues to identify new studies that we could open within our Trust. Our patients frequently tell us what a positive experience taking part in a trial has been.
“Cancer research is now a very big part of our Trust; we have over 1000 patients across our sites voluntarily taking part in cancer research. Compare this with three years ago when we didn’t have 100 and you can see the improvements that we’ve made. We currently have nine dedicated cancer research nurses working across all four hospital sites which has made a real difference to the types of studies we can support. It has meant that we can now take on more specialised and complex studies across a range of tumour groups.
“Often, recruiting patients to trials within the required time can be challenging. Problems with resourcing can have an effect on how quickly we are able to recruit patients on to trials. To manage this we’ve set up monthly reviews within the research team, where we identify any issues concerned with particular studies and assess projected targets for recruitment. For example, if there is a study we are struggling to recruit to, we will screen all the relevant clinics at all our hospitals, liaise with the doctors and nurses, make them aware of the study and see if they can identify any patients who might be eligible for the study. This direct communication with the clinical care team has proved a very successful way of ensuring that we meet recruitment targets.
"We are keen to open up studies into new specialities. For example, last year we opened some gynaecology studies at Rochdale Infirmary. This provided some of our Rochdale patients with the opportunity to participate in high quality cancer research.
“With support from the CLRN we’ve also recruited a research nurse to support colorectal research, and we are now one of the top recruiting sites for an academic study into the recovery of patients following primary treatment of colorectal cancer.
“Pennine Acute’s hospitals cover some of the most deprived areas of the country with the some of the worst health outcomes so these are people who could benefit the most from research. We feel that as a Trust, this is only the beginning and we’ve much more room for growth. Clinical research provides invaluable information about a range of issues experienced by patients, from the effects of treatments on their lifestyle to their responses to certain drugs and their rate of recovery as a result of different treatments. For the future we intend to expand our research capabilities even more by doing more research into other diseases as well as more specialised cancers.”