United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, one of the largest Trusts in the country, has been shortlisted at this year’s HSJ Awards in the Workforce category for developing a mixed-skills workforce to successfully drive clinical trials in its District General Hospital. We spoke to Dr Tanweer Ahmed, Director of Lincolnshire Clinical Research Facility (LCRF), to find out more.
Why was there a need for a mixed-skills workforce in the Trust?
At the District General Hospital, although we had a large number of clinicians and consultants, they weren’t given a protected time to conduct research. We realised that the only way we would be able to do this is by having a mixed-skills workforce, to free up clinicians time, whether this is going through paperwork, giving information to patients or completing all the documents; it is quite intensive work.
How has the mixed-skills workforce helped your Trust run clinical trials?
The Lincolnshire Clinical Research Facility developed the mixed-skills workforce to help support consultants run a large number of clinical trials. We hired a range of skillsets including Band 2 Research Assistants, Band 4 Data Managers/Coordinators and Band 6 Research Nurses and Officers; who help consultants in the day-to-day running of clinical trials. In addition, the LCRF pharmacy team (Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians) also play an important role in supporting drug trials. They provide all the support to make sure we are able to run high quality clinical trial services and without this mixed-skills workforce the research wouldn’t have been possible.
How has this benefitted the Trust?
A few years ago some of our consultants left the Trust as they weren’t given the opportunity to do research. However, now we have the opportunity to conduct research it has been beneficial for the Trust because we are attracting consultants who want to do research. In Lincolnshire patients were not able to participate in trials, so the trust was not able to fulfil its obligation to provide trial treatment. However we are now supporting around 200 studies.
Most importantly, a Trust cannot set up specialist clinical services without research, for example stroke, angioplasty and cancer services, so if we want to set up those specialist services in Lincolnshire we now can as we have the research behind us. The other benefit is that the Trust is receiving more money from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct research and obviously the research brings in money as well. Previously we had very little research income and now we have received around £1.6 million research related money. We would also like to thank the NIHR for the funding they have provided us with, which helped us develop the mixed-workforce.
We are also the highest recruiting centre in the country for a number of commercial and non-commercial studies, which I believe is a very good achievement for a District General Hospital in Lincolnshire.
How has this improved the quality of care of the patients?
The quality of care that patients receive is very important, and clinical research provides direct evidence about what works and what doesn’t. Research helps the NHS to improve the quality of care and the future health of the population as outlined in NHS Quality Account report.
Participation in clinical research demonstrates the Trust’s commitment to improving the quality of care we offer, and to making our contribution to wider health improvement. Our clinical staff stay abreast of the latest possible treatment possibilities and active participation in research leads to successful patient outcomes. We can only improve or develop new treatment/drugs by running multi-centre clinical trials.
Do you have any future plans to develop this further?
We are planning to develop nurse specialist roles to offload further some of the work from the consultants. The nurses will be able to see the patients that come for follow-up appointments that don’t necessarily need to see a consultant, which will free the consultants up so they can see more new patients.
Why did you decide to enter the workforce category?
We felt we had developed such an excellent workforce and I thought it would be very exciting if our work could be recognised at national level, which has happened. I believe it would also help to raise the Trust profile and build team morale and motivation, which it has done as my team feel very excited that we’ve been recognised nationally.
Congratulations on being shortlisted and good luck at the Awards Ceremony.