The Royal College of General Practitioners (‘RCGP’) asked the Keele University’s Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences to host this year’s Midlands Faculty Research Symposium.
Delighted to take on the exciting but somewhat daunting challenge, a team of willing researchers and support staff worked hard to put together an engaging programme which hoped to inspire not only general practitioners but health care professionals, academics, and students to get involved with primary care research.
Hosted at Keele Hall on the 17th May 2018, over 60 people from a broad range of backgrounds joined us to enjoy the glorious sunshine beaming in from across the beautiful Italian gardens, as they engaged in a truly inspirational day.
David Fitzmaurice, Professor of General Practice at Warwick University, really set the tone for the day with his introductory keynote speech. As the first appointed academic GP, David was a great advocate to have at the event, flying the flag for research within general practice.
David's presentation first focussed on his work on anticoagulants, showcasing his dedication to implementing his research over the years, which has led to a 10% increase each year of patients prescribed anticoagulation medication.
He wasn't shy in endorsing that it's all well and good being published somewhere like the BMJ, but the thing that really matters is ensuring that your research is implemented into practice.
After a quick break, participants made their way to listen to the various parallel sessions, which were delivered by those whose abstracts had been shortlisted prior to the event. These sessions were a great way to hear about current research taking place in primary care across the West Midlands and gave researchers the opportunity to answer questions about their research that they may not have considered.
The next keynote speech was presented by Professor Roger Jones, Editor of the BJGP and Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Kings College London. Roger took us through his career as a GP, an academic GP, and then through to his current role as editor.
Roger went into detail about the state of primary care research through the ages, or rather, the absence of primary care research. It has certainly come a long way since the 1% of NHS budget invested in research and development, but it is clear that there is still a long way to go.
In 2010, Roger moved into editing and hasn't looked back since. He advised that anyone who is not involved in peer reviewing, to certainly consider it.
After an afternoon of more parallel sessions, the day ended on a very high note, with a keynote speech from the 'nations favourite GP', and first female chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.
Helen summarised the importance of general practice very eloquently, explaining that it's about the whole person, and what matters to them, not what is a matter with them - advocating the notion of 'Enid-shaped care.'
It would take me quite some time to summarise everything Helen had to say, and unfortunately, we're all very busy people so I won't keep you here for much longer. Instead, I'll summarise the key takeaways from each of these keynote sessions, for anyone starting out in primary care research;
1) Be topical. Be Realistic. Be Resilient.
Roger explained that you need to read a lot and find something that stimulates your interest. Once you're passionate about something, you need to be realistic, so conduct a 'who cares' and 'so what' approach to your research ideas. Does it matter? Do your friends think it matters? Make sure it's worth doing because you don't want to go off on an internally driven plight.
If you've done your reality check, and really think your research could make a difference, then be resilient and don't let people put you off. David advised that you've got to be consistent if you believe in the idea and believe that there will be a patient benefit. Helen echoed this notion, advising that you should never underestimate your own power to make a difference and make a change - so get topical, get realistic, and stick with it.
2) Network and Collaborate
This really was a resounding theme throughout the whole conference. All our keynote speakers advised that meetings like this are crucial, giving you the opportunity to pick each other's brains. You can't do an entire study by yourself, so you need to collaborate with experts and your ideas will be improved. There is more and more to learn about healthcare research, and you can only have so much in your head, so share it.
Roger Jones gave a sound piece of advice for people starting out - contact the Academy of Medical Sciences, who have a network experienced academics to call upon.
Mentors can be a fountain of knowledge and information, will perhaps see where you can improve where you can often can not, be aware of which progression and development pathways with will stimulate your growth as a researcher, and offer the encouragement you may sometimes need to keep going.
There are a number of mentorship opportunities available for primary care researchers, which should definitely be utilised. Roger did advise though, that you don't want to rush into a portfolio career before you've mastered your clinical role, because you'll always feel like you're on the back foot, and mentors are there to help you identify when its the right time to take the next step.
After a robust Q&A session with Helen, we reached the best part; celebrating the research which had been presented throughout the day. Of course, it was only fitting to have the Chair of the RCGP to hand out awards to the top scoring poster and oral presenters.
Charlotte Ratcliff, a ST2 GP Trainee, was awarded for 'best poster' which focussed on 'training the next generation of leaders'. Marrigje Nell, an intercalating medical student, won the prize for 'best oral presentation' entitled 'Prevalence of persistent low back pain in emerging adults: results from the 1970 British Cohort Study.' Finally, Nafiu Ishmail went on to win the 'David Morgan' prize for his presentation 'Bleeding complications post-acute coronary syndrome within the English primary care setting.'
All in all, even as a non-academic or a GP, I can honestly say that the day was truly inspiring and I left feeling rather excited about the future for primary care research. I think it would only be fitting to draw upon a lasting comment from David's keynote speech; primary care is certainly the 'lynchpin' of health care and the NHS, and research is ultimately the only way in which we will change healthcare for the better. So holding events such as this, are crucial for bringing together both the 'old and new' in order to showcase research, exchange knowledge, network, collaborate, and inspire the future generation of primary care researchers.
To see the full programme visit the website. You can also sign up to our mailing list to ensure that you hear about next year's event.