The Clinical Research team at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT) are targeting GP practices across the county to become active supporters of Join Dementia Research. The team use a similar approach with care homes, to support recruitment from this sector which is currently underrepresented in research. As part of a pilot, one LPFT team member is working closely with a small number of homes, to see how best to keep staff motivated and engaged.

At local Dementia Action Alliance meetings, LPFT Clinical Research Practitioner Rachael Fothergill would regularly meet GPs from across Lincolnshire. Discussions with them led to the idea of a targeted approach by Rachael and her colleagues to encourage GP practices to become supporters of Join Dementia Research.

When members of the public become Join Dementia Research Champions, they commit to promoting the service and to raising awareness of how and why people might get involved in dementia research. The idea is that organisations perform a similar role by raising awareness of the service with their patients or residents.

The county is split into three areas, and each team member takes responsibility for contacting GP practices within one of these areas.

Personal contact

Rachel Fothergill Care Home in Reach, Clinical Research Practitioner

Rachel Fothergill, Care Home in Reach, Clinical Research Practitioner

Most practices have a generic email as their main point of contact, but messages sent to this address rarely get a response. So the team asked colleagues within the Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust, which covers primary care, to make introductions to practice managers.

“Finding the right person to speak to at the practice who will be receptive to what you’re proposing can take a bit of time,” says Rachael. “But you just have to be persistent. Making personal contact really helps, rather than a faceless email. We’re all so enthusiastic about Join Dementia Research that once we get to actually speak to someone, we can usually get them on board.”

Once a GP practice is interested, a team member visits to give a presentation on Join Dementia Research to staff, and demonstrate the service’s learning tool. They will provide advice on how to order sign-up materials and offer suggestions of how recruitment can be encouraged. So far 13% of practices across the county are active supporters of Join Dementia Research.

Keeping in touch

Rachael explains: “If care homes are members of ENRICH, but aren’t directly involved in any research projects and can’t attend the quarterly ENRICH forums, then a long period of time can pass with staff having minimal contact with research. We wanted to look at ways to keep them more regularly engaged.”

Rachael is also working as a specialist In-Reach Clinical Research Practitioner in a 12-month pilot funded by the Clinical Research Network. The main objective of the pilot is to engage non-NHS sites with clinical research. Rachael is currently helping six Lincolnshire care homes to embed research into their daily routines. Rachael is the friendly face of research, offering support, information and guidance to care home management, residents and family members on how best to take part in clinical trials. This breaks down barriers by enabling people to become familiar with taking part in the research. The research team are also undertaking a full evaluation of the project so that a model of engagement can be drawn up for wider implementation on a national scale.

Lessons learned:

  • Becoming an active supporter of Join Dementia Research is a great way for organisations to signal their support and help motivate staff to support recruitment.
  • Finding the right person to speak to in an organisation is key to getting them onboard – personal contact is always best.
  • Building a relationship can take time – persistence and determination are usually required.
  • Be enthusiastic and you’ll carry people with you.