Welcome to the Research Institute for Primary Care & Health Sciences Blog

This blog was created to keep healthcare professionals, researchers, methodologists, and patients up to date with the latest primary care research. For more information about the Research Institute, visit our website; keele.ac.uk/pchs

Friday, 1 June 2018

Engaging with the rural community for future research

Written by Laura Campbell | www.keele.ac.uk/pchs | @PCSciences

As part of an upcoming funding proposal around rural mental health, researchers at the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, recently held a successful community engagement morning.

One challenge of achieving good Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) in research is making sure that we endeavour to include broad range people. Having input from several different social, professional, economic and ethnic backgrounds helps to produce high quality healthcare research which is relevant for more people. That is why it is so important to reach out to the so-called ‘seldom-heard’ groups, such as rural communities and people with mental health conditions.

Working with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, on Friday, 10th May, Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham and PPIE Project Support Laura Campbell met with members of the community in Leek, Staffordshire, to discuss early ideas around a potential research project. The aim of the meeting was primarily to see if the research team’s ideas made sense to the group, and also to find out if anyone would be interested in being a co-applicant on the grant application.

Having publically advertised the event previously, we were delighted to see a variety of people attend the meeting. This included representatives from Approach Staffordshire (a dementia Support group), local town councilors, artists, local community figures, retired mental health practitioners, the fire service and the local Women’s Institute.

At the start of the meeting, Laura took the opportunity to talk to the group in more detail about what Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement in research entails and how their contributions could help shape research studies. The group were informed that how Keele support, encourage and nurture PPIE through our Research User Group (RUG) which is made up of over 110 members, each with their own experiences of health conditions such as osteoarthritis, chronic pain, inflammatory arthritis, mental ill health and long term conditions. This “Expertise by Experience” has been an integral part of health research at Keele for the last 12 years and helps our research to stay patient focussed.

The group were very interested to hear that lay people can be involved in lots of different ways, from participating in a Patient Advisory group to being a co-applicant on a grant application or contributing to a study steering committee.

From there Prof. Chew-Graham explained a project idea to the group, which aims to investigate the potential role of “Safe and Well” visits by the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in identifying mental health problems in older people. Working with the fire service and other community groups in a more ‘joined up’ service was strongly supported by the group, who were very passionate that researchers and community groups should all engage in conversation more regularly in order to provide the best possible for care for people, especially those who may be more isolated in the rural community. Local knowledge was championed, with an emphasis on ‘prevention rather than cure’.

Holding engagement events such as this is extremely useful and interesting for all involved. Not only did the group learn how they can actively become involved in mental health research, but also the Keele team took away valuable information from the group. For example, we learned that as a national organisation, the Women’s Institute will be concentrating on mental health going forward, with ‘Mental Health Matters’ likely to be adopted for the forthcoming year. When the discussion broadened to the problems facing older people in rural areas – for example, loneliness, social isolation, poor transport and limited or no community services, the Keele team felt it would be useful to share that we are planning two further meetings to engage with the rural community, in a bid to listen to their ideas and potentially take these forward in research.

31st May FRRESH (Forum for Rural Research on Health & well-being)
12.30-4pm Foxlowe Centre, Leek (lunch included) ‘Rural proofing’

7th June PPIE meeting 10-11.30am
David Weatherall Building, Keele University
To discuss the development of a programme of work around older adults, pain, mental health in rural areas.

Carolyn and Laura advised that all were welcome – please contact c.a.chew-graham@keele.ac.uk or l.campbell@keele.ac.uk for more information.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Knowledge mobilisation: Growing knowledge together

Written by Laura Swaithes and Dr Sue Ashby | www.keele.ac.uk/pchs | @PCSciences

March 7th saw the start of a two-day event in Bristol for the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum. For those of you who don’t know, knowledge mobilisation is the process of getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time, and it is a large focus of the implementation work undertaken by our own Impact Accelerator Unit, led by Professor Krysia Dziedzic.

The central theme of the forum was ‘Let’s start a conversation’ and the organisers made a point of hosting an ‘un-conferency conference’ to encourage creativity and collaborative learning. The informal atmosphere coupled with a quirky venue set a great environment for networking with an array of delegates. The venue was an old fire station, now functioning as a young person’s centre (run by the creative youth network), and still had many original features including a sloped floor in the main hall, designed for the draining of water when fire engines returned from a job.

One of the opportunities to showcase work in the field of knowledge mobilisation was an ‘Interactive poster session’, of which Dr Sue Ashby and Laura Swaithes (supported by Professor Krysia Dziedzic) represented Keele presenting two of the 12 selected posers. The interactive nature of the poster session involved delegates leaving comments/questions on each poster for the presenters to respond to in an open conversation slot, which stimulated lots of interesting discussions. One of the key themes from both posters was the role of patients and the public in knowledge mobilisation.

All delegates were paired up and invited to arrange a ‘Randomised Coffee Trial’ (RCT) which was another networking opportunity that bought health researchers together with people working in law, surveying and other industries to facilitate cross-discipline learning.

Then came the creative stuff! A fantastic session on co-production pushed us outside our comfort zones by using plasticine, Lego and other ‘Blue-Peter’ style items to embrace service design thinking in a different way. This was an enlightening session that demonstrated a unique way of how knowledge could be mobilised between academia, healthcare practitioners, and policymakers to create a space to understand and communicate real-world practical knowledge. Believe it or not, some really interesting messages came from this creative display!

Another example of alternative approaches to knowledge mobilisation came in the form of a fishbowl conversation focussing on the barriers to translating research into practice and how we overcome them. For those of you who have never heard of, or participated in a fishbowl conversation, in essence, it is a bit like a focus group with an inner circle of four chairs, and an outer circle of (in our case) approx. 25 chairs. Three people sat in the inner circle and started a conversation about the chosen topic, with only one person able to talk at a time, if they were holding Dory the fish! This created a light-hearted atmosphere and added a comedy element to the process. If at any time someone from the outer circle wanted to contribute to the conversation, they could take a seat in the inner circle and one of the three people there had to move back to the outer circle. 

Whilst it initially appeared as if it could be slightly daunting, after getting involved, it became clear that it was a really useful process that enabled great dialogue, time for reflection and consideration, and generated huge amounts of data in a small space of time.  If you want to find out more about this technique take a look at http://www.betterevaluation.org/en/evaluation-options/fishbowltechnique

Overall, it was a great event for sharing and learning as well as embracing some inner creativity! We received lots of positive comments about our work and hope to be back next year flying the flag for Keele again. In the meantime check out the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum http://knowledgemobilisation.net/about/ for latest news and tweets.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

SAPC Early Career Academic Networking Event - 30/01/2018

Written by Dr James Prior (Keele University) and Dr Rebecca Morris (University of Manchester)

This January saw the Society for Academic Primary Care (SAPC) hold their second early career academic networking event, hosted by the Institute of Population Health, University of Cambridge. 

The aim of this event is to bring together researchers from different academic primary care departments, both clinical and primary healthcare scientists (PHoCuS), and in the early stages of their career. This provides a platform for activities focused on how to progress an early career in academic primary care and also network with peers from other academic departments. Through sessions lead by senior academics, the aim is for those with successful careers to pass on useful information to the leading academics of tomorrow.

The event started with a Q&A session with Jonathan Mant, Professor of Primary Care Research and Head of the Primary Care Unit at the University of Cambridge. The title of this session was “Identifying opportunities and overcoming challenges as an early career academic” and was an extremely useful, frank and open discussion with the attendees. Prof Mant chatted about the path his career had taken in its earlier stage, the decisions he had made (based both on career and personal choices) and some of the reason he thought his career had taken the direction it did. A key message we took away was that there’s no typical academic careers so it’s important to do what you’re passionate about, finding a balance, and having an ongoing discussion with a mentor about career development. This sparked many questions from the attendees relating to topics such as pursuing promotions and managing expectations and people.

This discussion about an individual career and the choices which influenced it was followed by Bob McKinley, Professor of Education in General Practice at Keele University who presented on “Career pathways in education and research”. Taking a wider, more general view of career progression, Prof McKinley presented the formal academic career routes which lay open to clinical and PHoCuS researchers and educationalists, and what these different options entail and can mean for career direction. It was very useful to think about the range of career options open to us and the importance of making your CV stand out from everyone else’s.

One of the career paths that Prof McKinley discussed was that of the medical educationalist. However, teaching responsibilities in the wider researching community are becoming more and more common and a requirement of job roles. To this end, Dr Sophie Park from University College London was invited to talk to the attendees on the topic of “Engaging in teaching for researchers”. Dr Park addressed some of the key aspects of teaching, identifying that many of the same skills apply to both researching and teaching. The value of bringing research and education together was a key message as there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

Finally, Suzanne Richards, Professor of Primary Care Research ended the day with a practical and extremely useful session on “How to present your CV for maximum impact”. As someone who has sat on many interview panels and reviewed countless application forms and CVs, Prof Richards was able to provide the attendees with some extremely useful hints and tips to improve the chances of their CV catching the eye of a potential employer and increasing the chances of progressing their career. Top tip, good formatting is more important than you might think!!!

This event tied together many of the different aspects of being an early career academic and provided the attendees with much new information and many skills to take forward on their path towards a successful career in academic primary care. If you’d be interested in taking part in next year’s event then keep an eye on the SAPC website for further information.