Why research matters

Why research matters

As a teaching hospital, research into new treatments, drugs and therapies is at the heart of what we do. 

The treatments and medicines we use today would not have been develped without clinical research. Researchers in Nottingham have been a major part of increasing our knowledge and understanding of diseases.

Read what some of the people who work in research at NUH today think about the contribution of research to the NHS.

Lynda Elliott, Play Specialist, Children's CRF

Lynda Elliott is a qualified play specialist with 14 years of experience.

Her role involves supporting children and young people in the Clinical Research Facility to understand the processes and procedures needed to be carried out, offers alternative ways to manage them and emotional support to those visiting for an extended period of time.

Lynda says her role “In practice this can be as simple as listening to the child and understanding their perspective of what is happening and letting them lead to discover what they need. For some, using role play resources can help explore their thoughts, feeling and fears, or others, using the actual equipment is vital and empowering.”

As an example she explains how she previously helped a child cannulate a glove filled with red paint and water, giving the child the opportunity to be in control and understand the process of taking blood and giving medication. On another occasion, she had offered a young person different stress balls to cope with injections when she noticed he would bite his own hand to cope. After using her suggestion of the stress ball he said it didn’t hurt as much as other times.

Lynda says: “It is important to me that the children and young people feel valued, safe, listened too and comfortable when they are visiting the research facility and through providing appropriate play and activities, both therapeutic and general, while they are here, is a big part of that.”

Catherine Carlton, Research Nurse

Catherine Carlton is a Research Nurse in the division of Medicine and Family Health, based in the NIHR Nottingham Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at NUH. Her role is to support the setup and delivery of clinical trials including the recent Menigitis B vaccine trial in Nottingham sixth form schools, in conjunction with the University of Nottingham and the NIHR Clinical Research Network.

Explaining how she came to take on the role of research nurse, Catherine said it was her curiosity and the opportunity to combine all of her experience in different areas into one role.

Discussing why she enjoys the role, Catherine said “What I’ve learned through the years is that there is always a patient at the end of it, somebody who is going to benefit in the long-term. We don’t always get to see the long-term ourselves and as a nurse you want instant feedback but in this job you don’t always get that.”

Catherine first qualified as a nurse in 1992 after training with the NHS. Describing her earliest memory of working in the NHS she went back to a challenging moment early on in her training, saying “I was on a ward placement as a first-year student nurse and looking after someone who was dying during my night shift. Aged 19 at the time, it was a very ‘grown up’ thing to do and I remember thinking that that if you can deal with this then you can deal with lots of things. It’s my earliest memory but it isn’t a negative one”.

When asked why she first chose to be a nurse in the NHS, Catherine replied “There’s just so much choice in the NHS and no ceiling to what you can or can’t do. You can stay in an area if you enjoy it and you’re comfortable, but it also allows you to go into something more challenging if you want to. There are no boundaries. We’ll always be up against it, but I think the country would be lost without it.”

Mina Fatemi, Research Nurse

Mina Fatemi, Research Nurse

Research Nurse Mina Fatemi has won a place on the Florence Nightingale Windrush Leadership Programme aimed at creating leaders who are descendants of the Windrush Generation and other BAME applicants.

Mina, who works in respiratory medicine and has been part of delivering vital COVID-19 research trials at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, will use the programme to develop her research focusing on increasing the involvement of people from BAME backgrounds in clinical research.

Under the Florence Nightingale Windrush Leadership Programme, Health Education England funds 44 nurses from BAME backgrounds to develop their leadership, confidence and influencing skills. It provides online training - including learning presentation skills with actors’ academy RADA - as well as virtual networking opportunities.

She won the fellowship by pitching two research ideas: to support nurses from overseas to use their skills and qualifications in the NHS; and to encourage people from BAME backgrounds to become more involved in clinical research, where they are currently under-represented.

Mina, who has worked for the NHS for three years and is originally from Iran, said: “In Iran, the leadership style is a lot more autocratic - you’re in charge and make the decision, but at NUH there’s more team-work and it’s less centralised. I wanted to develop the right kind of skills to lead research delivery at NUH, and learn how to articulate my ideas and plans more effectively.”

“I had so many ideas that I’m so passionate about. NUH has a very diverse workforce, and it can be a challenge for many people from overseas to have their qualifications recognised. I’ll be researching how to improve that.

“I’m a research nurse and I know from my own experience that BAME patients are often not involved enough in designing research. That can be because of language differences, but sometimes researchers have stereotypes that deter them, so I want to find ways to increase their participation.” 

Dr Gemma Stacey, Director of the FNF Academy said: “We are delighted to welcome Mina to the Florence Nightingale family. Her work on helping overseas nurses and midwives transfer their skills will be extremely beneficial in developing and hence increasing the workforce. 

“We want to ensure that the same opportunities are available to everyone who comes to work in the NHS and Mina’s work will allow us to welcome nurses and midwives from far and wide. The multicultural tapestry of the NHS makes it so special and Mina’s research will allow nurses and midwives from BAME backgrounds to continue to be welcomed in the NHS.” 

William Cottam, Research Fellow

Image of William Cottam wearing red and blue check shirt, smiling, leaning against white wall. As a Research Fellow in neuroscience and imaging, William Cottam works within the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), developing innovative healthcare solutions to benefit and improve the lives of patients and the public.

William’s research studies the effects of chronic osteoarthritis knee pain on the structure and function of the brain. When asked what he enjoys most about his role, William said that “getting to interact with research participants is extremely rewarding, hearing about their individual experience and working with them to carry out the research”.

Since starting in 2017 following his research at the University of Nottingham, William has been based at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre – also home of the Nottingham BRC Imaging theme. Discussing why he chose to work here, he explained “the opportunity to work within the BRC was something I didn’t have to think twice about. This Centre, based between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, is an opportunity to truly make a difference to healthcare research and subsequently improve people’s lives.”

Nottingham has an illustrious history in imaging research, as the home of Sir Peter Mansfield and the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

He continued “as a researcher working in translational research, the aim is to try and make things better for patients. This is a huge motivator for me and many other researchers here, to achieve success and improve the lives of other people”.

Vicky Booth, Allied Health Professional Clinical Academy Co-Lead

Photo of Victoria Booth

Careers in clinical research do not always follow a prescribed pattern. For evidence of this, look no further than pioneering Royal Navy surgeon James Lind.

The Scottish doctor, whose birthday is celebrated on 4 October, became noted for conducting the first-ever clinical trial while on board the HMS Salisbury in 1747. His experiment at sea demonstrated that oranges and lemons could cure scurvy, then a common condition among sailors.

Assistant Professor Vicky Booth has this year become a HEE/NIHR ICA Clinical Lecturer at the University of Nottingham and is also Allied Health Professional Clinical Academy Co-Lead for Nottingham University Hospitals. She has long combined a satisfying and demanding career spanning both clinical academic and patient-facing work.

Although her career is not as unusual as that of James Lind, she and NUH midwife Dr Kerry Evans are the first of their professions at NUH to have received this type of clinical lectureships for non-medics from the NIHR.

The HEE/NIHR ICA Clinical Lectureship programme is a difficult award to secure, with only 30 such grants awarded around the country. A previous NUH winner of the Clinical Lectureship is Dr Joseph Manning, Charge Nurse in the Paediatric Critical Care Outreach Team at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, was the first children’s nurse in the country to receive this award.

Physiotherapist Vicky finished her training in 2005 and developed a taste for research when she completed an NIHR-funded Masters in Research Methods in 2010.

She followed this up with a PhD funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, which she completed from 2013-17.

Helping people with dementia through exercise programmes has been a common theme in Vicky’s career and through her work in helping patients.

As well as working as a researcher on the University of Nottingham’s PrAISED research programme, intended to help people with mild cognitive impairment or early stage dementia to remain healthier and more independent for longer, the degenerative condition is at the heart of her current HEE/NIHR Lectureship work.

With over 850,000 people in the UK affected by dementia – which costs society £26.3 billion a year – there is a pressing need for new research discoveries.

Vicky’s research team aims to help more people with dementia stay healthy through exercise.  By rigorously investigating how exercise therapy can be made personal to people affected by dementia, reliable information can be included in resources to support more people with dementia in staying active and independent.

“Doing this means our research is better focused on patient care and the patients’ actual problems, rather than being remote from these issues,” she said.

“There is so much more we need to do to improve the care of patients with dementia both in hospital and during their transition out of hospital, into the community."

As an Allied Health Professional, Vicky has been supported and championed in her research by Professor Pip Logan, an occupational therapist and NIHR senior investigator, who has worked as her PhD supervisor.

Splitting her time between research, academic lecturing and seeing patients as a physiotherapist leads to better research outcomes, believes Vicky, who was also previously an NUH Honours Award winner in 2017.

NUH has also been celebrating yet another success with another NIHR award at post-doctoral level. Dr Katie Robinson started an NIHR Advanced Fellowship on 1 September, which further demonstrates the variety and depth of research and clinical talent in various roles throughout the Trust.

Olivia Hay, Research Facilitator

Olivia Hay, leaning against white wall.

Before a research study or clinical trial can begin recruiting patients there are a number of stages and people it has to go through, and that’s part of the role of Research Facilitators like Olivia Hay.

Olivia works with clinical teams, external partners and patient representatives to set up, run and support clinical studies within the surgery division at NUH.

Olivia came to the NHS following her master’s degree in Chemistry, where she focused on cancer drug development. It was from this that she knew she wanted to see how lab-based research translated into patient care and its impact on people’s lives. Explaining why she enjoys her role, Olivia said: “Every day is extremely varied. NUH is a very research active trust which is very exciting. There are still areas without any research studies, so it is extremely enjoyable opening up new specialities and potential within the Trust”.

It was her first experience of observing an operation that gave Olivia her a glimpse of working in surgery: “I was overwhelmed by the passion, team work and professionalism shown by the surgical team, which created the ideal situation to give the patient the absolute best care they needed”.

And after her first year in the role, Olivia says: “I am extremely proud to be part of Team NUH”

Professor Stephen Ryder, Clinical Director of Research and Innovation

Professor Stephen Ryder has been working in the NHS since 1985 and is currently Clinical Director of Research & Innovation at NUH, Professor of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and Consultant Hepatologist.

As Clinical Director of Research & Innovation, Stephen is passionate about research, ensuring all patients and staff across NUH have the opportunity to take in research at the Trust. On why he enjoys his role Stephen says “research is by definition improving care.  The whole aim is to make things better and to get better outcomes for the patients we treat. It is a huge privilege to see the way that new treatments and new ways of working change people’s lives for the better.”

Discussing why he chose to work in the NHS, Stephen explained “I absolutely believe that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world and that makes it a wonderful place to work. It has staff who are highly motivated with altruistic views which means you have the best colleagues to work with and can be part of such strong teams.”

Professor Ian Hall, Director of NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

Image of Professor Ian Hall in grey suit with white tie. Stood in front of green plants. Professor Ian Hall has been working in the NHS for over 36 years, and was awarded a fellowship from the Academy of Medical Sciences, for his outstanding contributions to biomedical and health sciences.

Ian is a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and Director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) a centre of excellence based at NUH. He is also Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Nottingham.

Discussing his earliest memory of working in the NHS, Ian went back to his time in Oxford as a junior doctor: “The environment was completely different. We worked very long hours (before the EU Working Time Directive introduced shift-working), as part of a clearly defined team, and we worked effectively because of that team. But we worked ridiculous hours; my second job was every other weekend. My first job at NUH was in 1986 as a registrar.”

Ian’s reasons for working in the NHS are his belief in free healthcare: “The NHS, despite its faults, remains the benchmark for a healthcare system which is free at the point of access, and accessible to all.  These are fundamentally important features”.

Describing what he enjoys most about his work, he says: “medicine is an extremely rewarding and worthwhile profession.  The opportunity to contribute through research is also very important to me. It would be naïve to assume everything we do produces research that directly affects clinical care but, undoubtedly sometimes it does. It also contributes to the UK economy through collaborations with industry. I am very fortunate because very few roles have the degree of variety that I have in my job.”

The Nottingham BRC is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, improving the health of millions of people with diseases like asthma and arthritis.