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Brunel researchers pinpoint techniques for translating medical research into front-line treatments


A new study analysing a national initiative to improve the transfer of cutting-edge medical research to real healthcare settings has picked out key successes of the scheme so far.

A team including researchers from Brunel University, London and RAND Europe, a non-profit research and analysis institution, has examined the impact of the first Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs).

Nine of these schemes were launched five years ago. In 2014 this will be expanded to 13, with a further five years’ funding from government.

In a paper published this month in the Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, the team focused on two CLAHRCs, one operating in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and one in the South-West of England.

They found that the CLAHRC teams had to work hard to engage with managers, clinicians and patients, drawing on interdisciplinary expertise from business and the social sciences as well as from medical research. It was not enough just to present the results of the research - the CLAHRCs needed to work closely with key interest groups, to address their particular concerns and find out what kind of data they consider compelling and helpful in supporting decision-making.

One example is the adoption by South West ambulance crews of tranexamic acid as a method of controlling bleeding. This technique was already in use by military doctors, and introducing it to the ambulance service was made quicker and easier because the local CLAHRC had already invited crews onto its evidence-based training courses.

The study emphasised that NHS structures are complex and change regularly. The rapid pace of change meant that CLAHRCs had to adopt a flexible, iterative process, putting forward ideas, absorbing feedback, reviewing, adapting and re-presenting. It was mainly through this slow and painstaking process of building credibility and goodwill that the CLHARCs were able to increase the ability of the NHS to absorb and act on research, but the researchers also acknowledged the effect of the financial commitment that NHS regions were required to make to the CLAHRCs.

Brunel University's Professor Bryony Soper, who was part of the research team, said: “People establishing a CLAHRC for the first time may be alarmed to discover that there is no ‘road map’ guaranteeing success. But, in contrast to those pioneers who set up the first collaborations five years ago, there is now a wealth of practical experience to draw on. These partnerships have proved their worth in delivering better healthcare.”

Read a full account of the study in The Guardian Professional

Read the full paper