Staff Choice Awards 2018/19
Partnership Working Award

Research Development Team

Has been shortlisted for this award

Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich 

The nomination said...

The Research Development Team was established in 2015 with the aims of: developing grant applications; establishing national links and networks in research; increasing research impact and dissemination.

To our knowledge, this is the first NHS mental health clinician-led research team dedicated to developing new research. The programme is led by Dr Jon Wilson, Research Director, and covers three clinical areas:

  • Child & Youth Mental Health (led by Dr Tim Clarke)
  • Adult Services and Wellbeing (led by Dr Corinna Hackmann)
  • Older People’s Services (led by Juni West).

The programme is supported significantly by NSFT Library services.

The work undertaken involves the Trust leading on substantial partnership working with multiple organisations including, but not limited to:

  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Cambridge
  • Anna Freud Centre
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • University of Columbia
  • All India Institute of Medical Science (Delhi)
  • Collaborative Support Programmes of New Jersey
  • University of York
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • East of England Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (CLAHRC), in addition to multiple NHS trusts, schools and third sector organisations in the region.

The primary focus of the research relates to new ways of delivering care in areas which are traditionally under-represented in clinical research. The research projects take a co-production approach to involve service users and carers and often involve clinicians who are new to research. For each piece of work undertaken, there are service user and carer representatives (“experts by experience”) included on the design, management, analysis and dissemination aspects of the project. This is an essential ethos for all the new research being developed in the Trust.

Through this partnership working, the team has secured funding for four grants led by NSFT in 2017/18, including two prestigious National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) grants. These grants alone are expected to offer new research opportunities to a total of 760 NSFT service users and carers from late 2018.

One of the research grants developed and led by NSFT aims to test a new school-based therapy for young people with borderline personality disorder (BEST, funded by NIHR, £352,000). This project is working in partnership with experts from the University of East Anglia, University of Cambridge, Anna Freud Centre and several local schools.

The team is also developing new psychological care research for older people’s services with experts by experience, and national experts from University of Exeter, University of East Anglia and University College London.

In addition to funded grants, further work has been delivered in the following area, which has embodied the best of international partnership working to great effect: NSFT is leading on the design and delivery of an international programme of work called INCLUDE, which aims to understand and improve the experience of people receiving a mental health diagnosis across cultures. This work, which took place in the US, India and Norfolk and Suffolk, has led to service user-led recommendations being made to the forthcoming International Classification of Disease ICD-11 manual for mental health conditions (WHO), and is now developing new materials and training to improve diagnostic experience and engagement. The team has also advised other countries on introducing co-production in research projects, using their experience in the area, which has helped to create a culture of learning across areas.

The key to the success of the Research Development Team are, undoubtedly, the theme leads. Each lead is clinically qualified and experienced but also has a wealth of experience and expertise in clinical research. They couple this with substantial leadership, project management and strategy skills. This means they are very well-placed to deliver practical research which is of benefit to the Trust, and can engage fully and lead meaningful partnership working across multiple sectors and areas.

One of the key strategies used by the team is the ability to install a strong, clear vision and aim among all the partners for each project, which is borne from the importance of only undertaking research which improves the experience and outcomes of mental health service users and carers.

The team works by a “Just Do It” positive attitude and always delivers the work promised to deadline. The team are highly responsive to urgent deadlines and needs, and the feedback I have received from external parties is that the Research Development Team is very easy to work with, organised, hugely skilled and highly professional.

Work produced by the team has led to high-impact publicity and publications in collaboration with experts by experience, academic and clinical partners.

The new research grants have been subject to national press releases, for example: (23 July 2018) ‘New research set to support young people with symptoms of borderline personality disorder’, and preparatory International work for future NIHR grants has also achieved national coverage from the Guardian and BBC, for example: (19 April 2018) ‘Mental health patients want immediate diagnosis, says report’.

The team has also been published in high-impact journals such as the Lancet Psychiatry, Early Intervention in Psychiatry and the British Medical Journal, and has been invited to present at international conferences.

This publicity has led to the Trust being increasingly recognised as an area of research excellence in the Eastern region and beyond, and NSFT is now being approached directly by national leaders who wish to work with us on new research projects. Without this team, the Trust would not have received this recognition, funding or positive publicity over the past 12 months.