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Jason wins Principal Investigator of the Year award

Jason Smith holding the NIHR award

Surgeon Captain Jason Smith has been confirmed as the Principal Investigator of the Year as part of the jointly run research awards by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network.

Professor Smith, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at University Hospitals Plymouth, impressed the judging committee with his commitment to clinical research in the field of emergency medicine. In particular, he has played a pivotal role in re-launching a portfolio of research studies in Emergency Medicine following the diversion of resources due to COVID-19.

Jason, who also holds an Honorary Chair of Emergency Medicine at the University of Plymouth, said: “It really is a great honour to receive this award and to see Plymouth recognised in this way. However, I really don’t see it as my award – it is testament to my colleagues and to everyone involved in making it possible. I’m also very grateful to the Research and Development team here, as it wouldn’t have been possible without their support.

Jason Smith holding the NIHR award “Our traditional model of recruitment no longer became feasible when our research nurses were redeployed to provide clinical care and run COVID-19 vaccine studies. It was important to employ a flexible approach to be able to continue to carry out research within the emergency department. We therefore empowered a team of healthcare assistants to be able to deliver one study alongside their clinical duties; we appointed two of our clinical nurses on part-time research secondments and enabled research fellows to act as NIHR Associate Principal Investigators for some other studies.”

Thanks to taking these practical steps, Jason and his team have been able to carry out a number of research studies since the start of the pandemic. These include: the FALCON study, which evaluated different diagnostic tests for COVID-19; PRIEST, which investigated patients with symptoms of COVID-19 upon presentation at the emergency department and RELIEF, a randomised controlled feasibility trial on the use of lidocaine patches in patients with rib fractures to aid initial pain relief.

Eight studies are currently running in the emergency medicine portfolio with four further studies in the process of being set up at the hospital.

Jason adds: “I think our successes here have demonstrated that it is possible to research in an emergency setting. We work in a really challenging environment and everyone is incredibly busy, as we see the sickest of sick patients come through our doors. But offering our patients the opportunity to become involved in research studies is the way we can make things better – it’s all about finding the answers to the important research questions we have. If we can make testing better, make patients more comfortable, and ultimately improve patient care, then it is certainly worthwhile.”

Gary Minto, Director of Research and Development at UHP said: “It’s great to see national recognition for the approach that Jason and our emergency team have adopted, where research is embedded and trials are carried out in partnership with the R&D team. The clinical team are best-placed and have the specialist knowledge needed to recruit participants into trials as an enhancement of usual clinical care rather than this work being outsourced to a separate research nurse team. It’s hard to think of a clinical service that’s been busier over the past few years than the Emergency Department (ED), yet through their very proactive approach, Jason and his colleagues have shown that this model really works. Several of our other services (such as Respiratory, Intensive Care and Immunology) have also had great success in COVID-19 trials with an embedded model. We welcome discussion with service lines to scope how they can follow the trail that ED has blazed.”

Dr Beth Newstead, a Consultant in UHP’s ED said: “We are very lucky to have Jason as part of our team – he has a real ability to bridge the gap between academia and frontline clinical medicine which has engaged staff and benefitted our patients.”

Michael Visick, Chief Operating Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said: “NIHR Principal Investigator of the Year award is recognition at a national level for the outstanding contribution Professor Smith has played in relaunching and growing the emergency medicine portfolio at University Hospitals Plymouth. The South West Peninsula has proved to be a major contributor to the UK’s NIHR portfolio of clinical trials and it is due to dynamic research leaders such as Professor Smith and his colleagues. His dedication and determination to offer his patients the very best treatments and care via the most up-to-date and world leading clinical research is a credit to him and University Hospitals Plymouth who support and drive a research culture. The CRN SWP are proud that Professor Smith is part of the team.”

To find out more about Jason’s award, please visit: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/news/principal-investigator-and-young-researcher-of-202122-announced-by-rcem-and-nihr/29891

To find out more about Research and Development at University Hospitals Plymouth, please visit: www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/research

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