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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Celebrating innovation within iPCHS

Written by Tom Kingstone | @PCSciences | | Published Thursday 27th April 2017

The Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences (iPCHS) has been awarded not just one, but two funding awards from the Keele Innovation Fund. Athula Sumathipala (Professor of Psychiatry) and Tom Kingstone (Research Associate) from the Mental Health Research Programme and their teams were the recipients of the awards for their projects ‘Student Link’ and ‘FRRESH’. Tom Kingstone talks us through both of these projects in this week’s iPCHS blog. 

What is the Keele Innovation Fund?

The Fund is designed to fund small-scale original projects proposed by individual staff members or groups.  Both of these successful projects have been able to demonstrate true innovation in their approach, aspirations and delivery model whilst promoting Keele’s aims to improve community engagement and deliver new research initiatives. Successful applications have to be in areas which are allied to current university activity, and are funded to a maximum of £5,000. 

‘Student Link’: enhancing patient and public involvement and engagement with ethnic minority populations in research

The first of the successful projects is ‘Student Link’, which aims to overcome the current challenges that researchers face in improving ethnic diversity within patient and public involvement and engagement (‘PPIE’) within research.

The project is led by Athula Sumathipala, Carolyn Chew-Graham, Steven Blackburn Tom Kingstone and Keele Medical Student, Beth Seale, who will be inviting Keele University students to become ‘PPIE champions’ to support their community engagement agenda, but why do we need such an initiative?

iPCHS is recognised for its dedication to patient and public involvement and engagement in research on both a local and national scale. The iPCHS Research User Group, which is a group made up of members of the public who either have a direct experience of living with a long term condition or are carers/close relatives of someone who does, are involved in over 70 different research and implementation projects on a range of health conditions and interventions (musculoskeletal conditions, pain, long term conditions and mental health). They are involved in giving advice on research design, reading and giving feedback on research materials (e.g. questionnaires, letters to patients, consent forms etc), proving comment on research proposals, becoming members of project steering committees and even becoming co-applicants on grant submissions.

Recruiting patients from black and ethnic minority communities’ to the become members of the group though, is a persistent challenge and the funding received from the Keele Innovation Fund aims to help us overcome those challenges and better reflect the demography of the local population.

If you would like further information, or wish to get involved – then please contact Professor Athula Sumathipala ( 

Forum for Rural Research on Health and Wellbeing ('FRRESH')

The second innovation project to receive funding was ‘FRRESH’ which is led by Tom Kingstone, Carolyn Chew-Graham, Athula Sumathipala, Mihaela Keleman, Bernadette Bartlam, Tom Shepherd and Tim Lewington.

The team has recognised that rural perspectives on health and wellbeing remain under-represented in research and have joined up with the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC), South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust (SSSFT) and the New Vic Borderlines to develop a new initiative.

The funding will support the establishment of ‘FRRESH’, which will support community engagement and research development by providing a platform to identify local rural health challenges, agree priorities for research and identify innovative methods that emphasise collaboration and knowledge translation between academia and rural communities across Cheshire, Shropshire, and Staffordshire.

For more information about ‘FRRESH’, please contact Tom Kingstone (
Make sure to follow us Facebook, Twitter and the Blog to keep up to date with these projects.

About the author

Tom graduated from Keele University in 2006 (B.Sc) with a dual honours degree in Criminology and Psychology. He stayed on at Keele to complete an M.Res in Social Science Research Methods the following year, before moving on to working in various various research roles within the public sector (Office for National Statistics) and also the third sector. 

Tom returned to Keele in 2012, having been accepted for an ACORN studentship. His thesis explores the experiences of older adults living with chronic pain in rural environments. Tom is now a Research Associate for the RI, as part of the mental health team.  

Acknowledgements: Robyn Till (iPCHS Communications Officer) 

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