Research is crucial to all parts of the NHS, helping us to understand, adapt and respond to the challenges faced. Traditionally, research was viewed as the job of academic departments in large hospitals, but that is no longer the case. The vast majority of peoples’ contact with the NHS takes place in general practices like Students’ Health Service (SHS), so it makes sense that more research is taking place in this setting too.
SHS has been a research active practice for several years. We participate in a wide variety of studies, most of which are featured on our research notice board. We are only involved in NHS funded studies approved by our local Primary Care Research Network (PCRN). They will also have been considered in detail and approved by a Research Ethics Committee. Some studies involve our GPs, nurses or Health Care Assistants recruiting students during consultations. We have recruited to studies which have resulted in important findings and been published in very well known journals. For example, we were one of the main recruiters to a study called IPCRESS, published in the Lancet in 2009. IPCRESS showed that Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) seemed to be effective when delivered online in real time by a therapist. This method of delivery of CBT has since grown, enabling broader access to CBT, impacting significantly on how mental health problems such as depression are managed. We also recruited students to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) earlier this year, which found that offering people initial telephone contact with physiotherapists (PhysioDirect) was equally clinically effective as usual care, provided faster access to physiotherapy, and seemed to be safe, (although it could be associated with slightly lower patient satisfaction). These findings will be shaping how physiotherapy services are delivered nationally.
Interestingly, there is also growing evidence to suggest that people who take part in a research study, even in the control arm, tend to do better than equivalent individuals who are not involved in research!
We are very grateful to those students who respond positively when we approach them about taking part in research (almost all of you do!). The studies we take part in are designed to be user friendly, both for us and for you, and the rewards of taking part for the NHS as a whole can be really significant. So don’t be surprised if we mention research to you, and take a look at our research notice board next time you visit the practice.