The Peninsula Mental Health Research Initiative is part of a £30 million Mental Health Research Initiative launched by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Department of Health and Social Care to help tackle the existing gap between local needs and mental health research activity.
As part of this programme, we have established a South West Mental Health Research Programme (PenMHRI). PenMHRI aims to promote close working with mental health services and public collaborators to build research capacity in the South West region and deliver high-quality research to improve services through evidence.
To help us achieve this we are working with partners including those with lived experience, practitioners, and organisations and have developed a Research Associates programme that allows mental health practitioners to work on a research project that matters to them and their organisation. Over the last year, we’ve been working with three associates to develop their research ideas.
Beth Chapman is a Consultant Psychiatrist at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
“I work in a busy community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team (CAMHS) which means that, working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, I see children and young people with severe mental illness. The research project that I’ve been working on, and which PenMHRI has made possible, is called CAMHS Goes Wild! The project explores nature-based approaches within CAMHS.
“It’s been so valuable to have the time to research and I’ve learned so much. It’s been inspiring and motivating to be with people who understand the concept and its value. I’ve learnt that getting research off the ground takes time and that this can limit a clinician’s capacity to take part. It’s been a privilege to go to meetings and presentations with academics and to read papers as part of a day job and I’d like to see the opportunity widened to bridge the gap between research and clinical work. I think that if academics and clinicians had more opportunity to learn from and talk with each other, we could get to where we want to in a quicker and more meaningful way.
“Having time for research has enabled me, the service and Trust to realise the potential of such an innovative way of working. Learning about the research process has also helped me to apply critical thinking to my own and other’s practice and to support others to think about their own research. I’ve been able to remind clinicians and managers more broadly about our duty to offer research opportunities to our children and young people.”
Nicola Legodi is a Psychological Therapist and Clinical Supervisor at South West Family Values CIC.
“I specialise in parent-led treatment for conditions such as anxiety and conduct problems and lead a team of psychological therapists working directly with children, young people and families. A large part of my role involves sourcing funding and project management. To do this, it’s crucial that we measure impact and effectiveness of our treatments to ensure we are providing the best services in the most financially economic way.
“My research project has been focussed on exploring interventions for adolescents who present with symptoms consistent with conduct disorder. I’ve been using intervention component analysis as a framework to identify the components that are present in effective interventions for young people and how we can use this to improve the service we provide. It’s been so valuable and enjoyable to have time to research. The protected time has enabled me to undertake wider reading which I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do and allowed me to explore an area that we have long wanted to improve and develop. Services for adolescents are underrepresented in the area that we work, and this opportunity has led to a better understanding of how we can deliver services in an effective way for them.
“I would wholeheartedly recommend research to others. Sometimes we forget that research doesn’t have to be on the scale of a large RCT and that local, client-based research can impact on the local community quickly and more precisely than larger, population size studies.”
Austin Hymas is a GP and Research Associate in the Falmouth and Penryn Primary Care Network Wellbeing team.
“I work in a busy GP surgery in Falmouth and spend a day a week working in the Falmouth and Penryn Primary Care Network (PCN) Wellbeing team. The team consists of health and wellbeing coaches, a psychiatric nurse, occupational therapist and social prescriber, supported by a lead GP and myself. It’s a newly established service designed to provide support for people who are being negatively impacted by their past or current life circumstances. It was formed out of recognition of unmet need for mental health support for a portion of the local or ‘Gap’ population, who fall through the gaps in existing services and aligns with NHS wide mental health transformation goals. It’s a service which is now being replicated around the county.
“The principle aim of my research project is to understand what, if any, impact the new Wellbeing Service is having on the experience of general practitioners working within Falmouth and Penryn. It’s a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with general practitioners who have referred patients to the service. I think this is important to help characterise the benefits and challenges (from a GP perspective) of this new model of service provision. I hope the results will help inform discussions around its suitability to be adopted more widely across the NHS.
“I have really enjoyed my time as a research associate. It’s been a wonderful and, for me, unexpected addition to my general practice work. I have learnt a lot since starting as a relatively recently qualified GP, with little prior research experience. It’s given me the opportunity to learn about ethnographic methods of research, think about ways of evaluating complex multifaceted organisations such as the wellbeing team’s and seen how the research process works in large academic organisations. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from the fortnightly meetings with my research supervisors, Becky and Rachel, which have been great fun and thought provoking. I’ve seen firsthand how services from primary care can be shaped, organised, and implemented and learnt a lot about different aspects of mental health care and provision. I’ve really valued the opportunity to appreciate the bigger picture of my every day general practice work and would recommend taking up any research opportunities that present themselves.”
Dr Mandeep Singh Kallu is Clinical Psychologist at Livewell Southwest – Health Inclusion Pathway Plymouth.
Mandeep works with people experiencing homelessness or substance use issues. He is planning to join the programme later in the year to work on a project to develop a toolkit for frontline staff working with people who are homeless and is looking forward to the opportunity for research to impact positively on his practice.