Whilst our University partners gear up for the influx of new and returning students, the Engagement and Communications team of Salford R+D pause for breath after their second successful Salford Research Week. Working in partnership with clinical and non-clinical staff within R+D, patient and public involvement reps and research partners across Salford and Greater Manchester, the week of events provided the ideal opportunity to celebrate research successes and to raise awareness to the wider public about how research improves care and treatment.
Having had a hand in the organisation of most of the week, any claims of outstanding success might be seen as slightly biased or self-congratulatory, so instead I will take this opportunity to focus on elements of the 11 events that resonated for me.
First and foremost was the ability of colleagues to come up with innovative ideas to engage and involve people in research that was ably demonstrated by the Help Beat Diabetes Team, who attracted significant interest when they served up health information on former usher ice cream trays at Eccles Festival. A simple idea with great effect.
Engaging shoppers in conversation is no easy feat, so when six research teams arrived at Salford Shopping Centre including our very own Citizen Scientist project team there was a certain amount of concern as to whether local shoppers would take time out of their busy lives to talk about health research. Over 100 conversations later and I think it’s fair to say they will.
The majority of us who work in the field of engagement know the importance of face-to-face conversations, so although we function in the world of online interaction, spending several hours in the shopping centre with colleagues from the Clinical Commissioning Group, The Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Help Beat Diabetes, Dermatology research and the Clinical Research Network was a further opportunity to develop professional relationships and hopefully future collaborations. Our challenge is to engage patients, the public and colleagues in research and innovation in a meaningful way, for whilst much of our efforts are rightly aimed at the involvement of patients; there are still colleagues within the NHS who view research as somebody else’s business.
At our Research Day conference, Professor Tudor Rickards asked quite simply how many of us thought of ourselves as innovators. In a room of research active individuals I am sure the reluctance to raise hands was more about the environment, but maybe the ability to celebrate our innovation and creativity is our next challenge.
That being said, what I found to be of particular interest were the various presenters at the Research Day conference. The morning and afternoon sessions provided an opportunity for reflection and learning through a celebration of Salford research successes, followed by an exploration of what innovation and creativity looks like in healthcare. The ability to think through a problem, come up with solutions, not be afraid to try and to be open to possibilities rather than closing down ideas before they have a chance to flourish provided food for thought.
A presentation on the realities of recruiting patients into an acute study was a powerful reminder of why we do what we do and one of the elements of the week that I will remember most. So whilst one of the aims of the week was to raise awareness and celebrate the research that takes place across Salford, the underlying message is that involvement in research can be life changing, providing treatment that several years ago would not have been possible.
The importance of patients being at the heart of what we do was a theme that ran throughout the week and one which I hope was evident in all activities and will be continued not only in research week, but in the hours, days, weeks and months to come.
My thanks to all the innovators, whether they put their hands up or not