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Member of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust research team handed national award from Academy of Healthcare Science

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A member of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) research team has been recognised with a prestigious national award.

Angharad Williams, who has a degree in bioscience and other qualifications as well as clinical training, has been named the recipient of the 2022 Advancing Healthcare Awards for Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) Leadership from the Academy of Healthcare Sciences.

This comes ahead of International Clinical Trials Day which takes place on Friday and highlights all the research undertaken by the Trust, which runs West Suffolk hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket Community Hospital, for the benefit of current and future generations.

Angharad Williams, who has been named the recipient of the 2022 Advancing Healthcare Awards for Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) Leadership. Picture: WSFT (56754107)
Angharad Williams, who has been named the recipient of the 2022 Advancing Healthcare Awards for Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) Leadership. Picture: WSFT (56754107)

Angharad, a clinical research practitioner (CRP), won the award in recognition for her work in developing a regional network and national work to develop approved accreditation scheme and register for CRPs.

Angharad said: “The eastern region committee of the National Institute of Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network, which includes parts of London, has become a network for research specialists whatever their background.

"For the accreditation scheme, CRPs have to achieve a set of standards and proficiency so they can work to agreed standards and levels of qualifications and experience.”

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds

As a CRP, Angharad is involved in recruiting and following up with patients for device and drug trials, as well as gathering evidence on follow-up treatment and therapies.

She said: “Nephrology is my main focus of my work, mostly with Dr Will Petchey. One area I am involved with is trialling online education for kidney patients, because more and more we are finding that education and self-care have such a beneficial impact on people’s recovery.”

Angharad is also involved with recruiting patients for the international RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy) trial which is identifying treatments for those hospitalised with Covid-19.

The trial has 195 active sites and over 47,000 participants worldwide and, in November 2021, the WSFT was named as the top national recruiting site on two consecutive weeks.

Paul Oats, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust research and development manager. said: “Trusts with active research teams have better patient outcomes, which is very satisfying for the staff. It is part of our daily routine.

"As a comparatively small team of 10 research nurses and CRPs, who work with the clinical teams, we look at studies that fit with our local population and what clinical teams are seeing in the hospital.

"These bring the biggest impact and benefit we can achieve for our community. At the same time our work fits in with the national agenda, there is a drive for this to be developed.”

The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is one of 50 healthcare sites nationwide involved in the SIREN study since the summer of 2020.

Around 550 staff joined the study, which looks at infection and re-infection rates in healthcare workers and involves a PCR test every two weeks and a monthly blood test for antibodies.

Paul said: “This has demanded an 18-month commitment from colleagues, as well as practical support from teams such as IT and pharmacy, and shows we have a positive research culture.

"This has been a truly combined effort, with many people contributing who don’t even realise they are part of it.

“During the pandemic researchers have been focused on testing, sequencing and modelling on the severity of variants, and of course we have one of the best vaccine and booster programmes.

"We now have repurposed drugs and antivirals that we can use to treat ill, or vulnerable people.”

Margaret Moody, Consultant oncologist, said: “Our staff were highly enthusiastic about the SIREN study and signed up in large numbers with everyone seeing the importance of the project.

“We are delighted that Angharad has been recognised with this well-deserved award and we are very proud of her.”

Angharad said: “Research used to be seen as an optional extra, but now it is mandatory for NHS trusts. I am pleased to say the WSFT is good at supporting research work, we deliver great trials, and our team is increasingly becoming integrated into the wider Trust. My manager Lisa Wood is a driving force in enabling that to happen.”

Angharad is also trained as an official monitor for Oxford University, after she was asked to be an external invigilator for research trials.

Lisa Wood, Lead research nurse/stroke research specialist, said: “Angharad is a huge asset to the team and we are very proud of her for this amazing achievement.”