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Innovative research set to start

​Two clinicians from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are to spearhead exciting research studies which aim to improve mental healthcare after being awarded funding from a prized regional fellowship.

Lead Clinical Pharmacist Andrea Nunney and Research Clinical Psychologist Tim Clarke have been awarded CLAHRC (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care) Fellowships from the National Institute for Health Research in the East of England. Mrs Nunney is the first pharmacist to receive the award since it was launched in the region in 2014.

The fellowships will cover the costs of releasing the duo from their usual roles for the equivalent of one day a week during their year-long studies. At the end of the project, their findings will be shared across the region with the aim of further improving the care which service users receive.

Mrs Nunney’s research will focus on whether more can be done to empower nurse prescribers and help build their confidence with regard to prescribing. Concentrating specifically on drugs prescribed for schizophrenia, she will interview nurse prescribers and ask them to complete questionnaires to find out more about their existing knowledge and areas where they feel they could benefit from additional training.

Mrs Nunney will then develop strategies and potentially a prescribing tool which could benefit both nurse prescribers and patients in the future.

She said: “I feel honoured to be the first pharmacist in the region to be awarded this fellowship, and excited to begin my research.

“Our nurse prescribers do an absolutely brilliant job, but can often be faced with very complex situations, such as when someone with a mental health issue also has other illnesses which need medication, such as diabetes or heart disease. I want to find out if there is more we could do to help them manage these cases and prescribe in a more clinically effective way.

“The fellowship will also allow me to develop my own research skills so that I can then bring that expertise back into the Trust and help upskill colleagues to carry out their own projects to improve clinical care.”

Dr Clarke, who is the Trust’s Research Development Lead for Children, Family and Young People’s Services, will look at how different components within the youth mental health service interact with each other and what changes could be made to improve outcomes. As well as holding focus groups with clinicians, commissioners, managers and service users, he will explore whether engineering design principles can be applied when developing youth mental health services.

“My project is about trying to understand exactly how the different components of a complex youth mental health service interact so that we can see if the processes involved can be improved to make the system work better,” said Dr Clarke.

“We will begin by identifying an area we would like to improve, such as access to services, service user outcomes or patient flow, and see what processes are needed to help us produce those improvements.

“Once the project finishes, I hope our recommendations will be shared across clinical services in the eastern region to help further improve the care which children and young people receive.”