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Research in action

A singular pleasure for members and governors of ASPH is attending Trust Members' events. As an academic researcher interested in NHS organisation research, I was particularly fascinated to join fellow governors and members at an event, led by Dr Martha Wrigley (ASPH's R&D Manager) in February, that showcased the research activity at the hospital.

Cate Gray (Research Divisional Lead Surgery & Oncology) kicked off proceedings, taking us through the research process and explaining that: "A clinical trial is any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes." Cate continued with a consideration of the different approaches that clinical research can take. The key model for clinical research is the randanomised control trial, a form of interventional research in which participants are allocated randomly to a treatment group or a placebo group. The participants are unaware which group they are in as, often, are the clinicians as well. The outcomes for each group are analysed statistically. Other research may be of a more observational form, seeking insight from qualitative research in which participants are interviewed about the topic of interest or observed in their daily routines. Researchers look for patterns of thought and action analyzing these discursively. This research is used to uncover individual perspectives and develop a richer understanding of the subject in question. Whichever approach is used, the NHS and other healthcare providers can, from these studies, be confident that the interventions they make are based on the best available science, enabling ASPH to be confident in providing evidence based, patient focused care to all its service users.

Next to speak was Dr Wrigley, providing an overview of the research at ASPH. There is, she told us, an expectation throughout the NHS that "all NHS organisations must play their full part in supporting health research" (Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2010/11: p22) because, as the NHS Constitution (2009) states, "Research enables the NHS to improve the current and future health of the people it serves" (p52). Organizational imperative from the NHS this may be, but ASPH's clear strategic vision shone through in Martha's presentation. She showed how ASPH places patient benefit at the heart of its research strategy and how it maximizes leveraging its partnerships with local universities, Industry partners, people and the wider NHS. Much of the research was in areas that are very much at the heart of what ASPH's does. There were several projects that stood out but space restricts us to consideration of one. The hospital participated in a study on the use of compression stockings after stoke to prevent DVTs in patients. The research, carried out in three stages, showed that stockings were ineffective but that an alternative treatment; intermittent pneumatic compression pump rather than standard care (aspirin, hydration and as early mobilization as possible), was effective. This research changed the approach to patient management following stroke, an area of specialization for ASPH.

Claire Atkinson (Research Divisional Lead Women's Health & Paediatrics) took us through research in her area including a very moving video featuring the experience of one of the patients participating in research and showing the profound potential benefit of much research for the lives of our patients. The team concluded the presentation with a spirited Q&A session demonstrating the level of interest the audience had in this topic.

Last year there were over 100 active research trials that the hospital took part in, all contributing to the quality of ASPH's patient care. "We are all very passionate about what we do!" said Dr Wrigley. That passion shone through in the whole presentation. It was a pleasure to attend the session and I can only recommend such opportunities to all ASPH members and service users.

Chris Howorth
Appointed Governor, Royal Holloway, University of London
February 2017


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