'Improving the experience of engaging your NHS care organisation(s) in research' Survey Feedback 2020 Blog By Roger Steel

I'm Roger, the NIHR CRN's NHS Engagement Programme Manager and with NHS R&D Forum, we designed this survey aimed at NHS based research delivery staff and management. Little did we know at the time that COVID-19 was to affect our work so much 3 months later. We ran the survey during January and February 2020 and received 685 responses. The feedback was rich and the insight is arguably more valuable now than it was when those results first started to come in. If you were one of those who responded - thank you for taking the time. Now we have the COVID-19 crisis affecting us all and so much has changed. Yet the report of your feedback gives us a baseline for how we can map that change as far as the environment for delivering research in the NHS is concerned. There are lessons to be learnt from it which are just as relevant now. I hope that those of you who are currently able at this challenging time will have a look at what follows and comment via our NIHR Learn 'Engaging your local NHS' community. There are opportunities to continue to share experience and check in with colleagues nationally.

There is now a full NIHR CRN report published which I hope will do justice to the survey feedback we received, but I wanted to provide a brief summary of key points, which I hope will start a discussion on what can be done to build on what has been achieved so far, which will perhaps take us into the experience of the current context of the delivery of COVID-19 priority studies and the aftermath of this.

The pie chart above shows the proportion of responses from different roles. Understandably the large blue portion represents research nurses, midwives and AHPs.

We asked 'Has the organisational environment in which you are attempting to deliver research changed at all for better or worse in the last 3 years?'

You can see that there is definitely improvement but there is a wide spread of different experience. We sampled the response to this question across a small selection of different role categories and found that some of this variety could be attributed to the experience of different roles rather than big variation across Trusts. For example, the NIHR Clinical Specialty Leads indicated little change at all, whereas the research Nurses/Midwives/AHPs reflected a positive improvement.

We ran a survey in 2017 and a number of questions were simply repeated in the 2020 survey. In response to the question 'Overall how would you rate your current experience of working within the NHS to establish research?' the following for 2017 and 2020 are compared:

Both show good results overall and there is a slight improvement in 2020 of about 3%. Again there is a wide spread in this rating.

The responses to the freetext questions were analysed into themes. In answer to 'When promoting, establishing or delivering research in NHS care what has worked particularly well?' the themes emerging were:

  • Investment in building strong working relationships over time
  • Strong team working and leadership.
  • Presence in and engaging inside clinical teams
  • Thanking, acknowledging and feeding back to care staff the results of their contribution to studies
  • Timely and supportive communications with care staff (about studies on the way).
  • Raising awareness of Research in a busy care environment.
  • Driving new research that clearly adds value at the site.

In answer to 'When promoting, establishing or delivering research in NHS care, what barriers have you commonly encountered?' emerging issues were:

  • Overall organisational culture
  • Lack of recognition of research staff as contributors to the organisation
  • Poor care staff and management knowledge of research
  • Staff time at all levels to support research
  • The level of integration of research in communications, systems and processes within NHS organisational infrastructure
  • Training a busy fluid workforce
  • Actual or perceived misalignment of or complexity of research systems and processes leading to slower progress
  • Gatekeeping by care staff (access to patients)
  • Dedicated research space lacking

I'll be available for a conversation about these results and the future of research engagement in the NHS through the NIHR Learn 'Engaging your local NHS' research delivery staff community forum over the next few weeks through this link. If you have not already done so, you can quickly register and log in with either an NHS or NIHR email address.