The Research ABC Project, led by Dr Ali Aries, Allied Health Professional (AHP) Research Lead at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) is an eight-month long project (August 2023–March 2024) funded by a Clinical Research Network West Midlands (CRN WM) Improvement and Innovation grant. The aims of the project are to enable the Black Country Integrated Care System (ICS) to address the four domains of Health Education England’s Allied Health Professionals Research and Innovation Strategy for England: capacity, capability, context and culture (Allied Health Professions’ Research and Innovation Strategy for England | Health Education England (hee.nhs.uk) and to develop a local plan and infrastructure to embed the strategy within the Black Country.
A survey of baseline levels of engagement in research, existing research skills, barriers to engagement, and training needs, was completed (October–November 2023), aiming to reach more than 2200 AHPs across six NHS Trusts in the Black Country ICS. In total, 489 AHPs from eleven out of fourteen of the professional groups (https://www.england.nhs.uk/ahp/role/) responded, with 440 eligible and consenting to participate (a 20% response rate). Key findings from the survey indicate low levels of research output across all professional groups. Barriers to research engagement typically included lack of time (65%), perceived lack of support from managers (12%), commitments outside of work (34%), and 11% were currently not interested in research. Free text responses revealed ‘not knowing where to start’ and ‘a lack of awareness of research opportunities’ to be additional barriers.
However, over half of the AHPs answering the survey had audit (51%) or quality improvement (50%) experience. To complete an audit or service evaluation some research skills e.g., the ability to search for literature and read and critique papers are essential, so this is a great starting point. The Research ABC team are now helping staff to celebrate the skills they already have and to develop specific bespoke research skills. This will help build research capability in the AHP community in the Black Country.
Training needs have been identified from the survey and online training sessions commenced in December, covering topics including abstract writing, starting up a journal club, CAT groups, public and patient involvement and engagement, literature searching, and differentiating research from other forms of evaluation. To date, more than 100 AHPs have accessed this training and feedback has been extremely positive. Further training is planned, and resources are regularly shared in the dedicated Microsoft Teams Research ABC Networking space, which also provides the opportunity for cross-professional group discussion, networking, and support, to its 260-plus members.
The Research ABC project will run until the end of March 2024, but there are plans to continue expanding research opportunities to AHPs across the Black Country ICS well beyond the project itself.
Dr Ali Aries lead for the project stated:
“We know research active organisations have reduced mortality rates, enhanced patient outcomes and staff benefits, including better recruitment and retention, and improved job satisfaction. We are really pleased with the success of the Research ABC project so far. The interest and engagement we have received from AHP staff has been great; it is especially encouraging that 96 AHPs have stepped forward and volunteered to be Research Champions driving research forward in their areas, professions, and trusts. We are excited to see how much more we can achieve within this short period of time and to find ways to continue to support research activities in the future.”
For further information, please contact the Research ABC team:
Authors: A.M. Aries; L. Wallace; S. Evans; R.Burgess; T. Hadley-Barrows, and R.Leslie
Top row: Dr Ros Leslie, Interim Black Country ICB Chief AHP and Chief AHP, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT); Dr Ali Aries, AHP Research Lead and Research ABC Project Lead, RWT
Middle row: Dr Roanna Burgess, Consultant Physiotherapist, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust; Tina Hadley-Barrows, Consultant Physiotherapist, RWT; Louise Wallace, Clinical Team Leader Physiotherapist, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.
Bottom row: Administration of the project is supported by Sharon Evans (RWT).