Cambridge research wins two NIHR regional awards

A research team and senior clinical trial coordinator swooped top awards at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) Eastern celebration awards in July.

The Rheumatology Research Unit at Cambridge University Hospitals were awarded a prize for their commitment to inclusive working, whilst Paula Turnball, senior clinical trial coordinator for the Cambridge Eye Research Centre (CERC) won the ‘Putting People First’ award.

Rheumatology research team

Rheumatology research team receiving award

Their award, inclusive working, recognises people or teams who have been instrumental in developing a new project or implementing new practice to ensure research is delivered with equality, diversity and inclusivity. 

The Rheumatology Research unit study conditions that impact the joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and bones, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. The Cambridge team have been working on studies that explore how different conditions in Rheumatology can affect and respond to treatments in patients from varying ethnic backgrounds. 

The team initiated an inclusion ‘audit’ to identify whether people from different ethnic backgrounds were underrepresented in their research. Using the results of their audit, they are working to open outreach clinics in these areas of need to support inclusive recruitment and increase the diversity of those taking part in their research. Outreach clinics are staffed by small, diverse teams of multilingual staff, ensuring patients feel comfortable with the care provided and safe in the research environment.  

The award judges recognised that the team had ‘gone the extra mile to ensure people from under-served groups can access research opportunities’.  The award was accepted by Jane Rowlands, Lissamma Titti and Katherine Hodges, and was presented by Prof Ruth Endacott, NIHR Director of Nursing and Midwifery.

Sam Wright, lead rheumatology research nurse said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received this award. Research is for everyone, not only do we want to improve outcomes for patients but to make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part in a study.”

Paula Turnball

Paul Turnbull, senior clinical trial coordinator for the CERC receiving award

Paula works as a senior clinical trial coordinator for the CERC and looks after several different trials in ophthalmology. The team run a variety of trials, anything from questionnaires to surgical and investigational medications.

The award highlighted research teams or individuals who had gone the extra mile for patients and transforming the way research is delivered and to improve the experience for patients.

Paula was nominated by Professor Rupert Bourne, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, who said: “Due largely to her drive, and personable interaction with patients and staff, she has been a big factor behind the growth of the Ophthalmology NIHR portfolio from one study in 2018 to 15 active trials, and five in set-up today. Almost all the patients thank the research team and Paula in particular for being as flexible and thoughtful as possible.”

The award was presented to Paula by Professor Erika Denton, Medical Director and Accountable Officer for CRN East of England at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

I was very humbled and proud to win such an award especially as it is patient focused. Our research patients are very important to us. They give up their time, agree to extra tests and procedures and ask for nothing in return. Without them we wouldn’t be able to move medicine forward, so anything we can do to improve their experience is always top priority. I say ‘we’ because the whole team at CERC is exceptional. It really is a privilege to work in research, I feel very lucky.

Paula Turnbull