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NIHR information for Ophthalmology Trainees

The UK Government has embedded research and innovation within the NHS (Health & Social Care Act 2012). The National Institute for Health Research has promoted, funded and coordinated a Clinical Research Network that is divided into 15 regions. Within these regions, NHS research takes place in primary and secondary care facilities and in the case of Ophthalmology, is primarily consultant-led. Residents in training are rarely involved in designing, leading or recruiting for research studies and very few residents have undertaken Good Clinical Practice training, a simple obligatory fundamental on-line course that trains all healthcare workers in the principles of research within the NHS.

Several surgical and medical specialties have successfully devised ‘trainee networks’, some regionally based and some national in scope with varying degrees of participation from their professional organizations. Some have delivered important national research studies with significant research impact and patient benefit.

Since 2015 there has been much more uptake of GCP training by trainees and involvement in research studies, often through Ophthalmology Trainee Research Networks, which are operational in most of the regions.

This webpage is designed to sign post trainees interested in participating in NHS research, as follows:

Trainee research networks in ophthalmology

Trainee research networks have been shown in various disciplines (Trauma & Orthopaedics, Critical care & Anaesthesia) to be of immense benefit towards the education, clinical practice and career development of the specialist trainees.

The trainee research networks in Ophthalmology were established by NIHR Ophthalmology specialty group in collaboration with the Royal College of ophthalmologists with consultation of the LETBs (Local Education and Training Boards) to harness the strengths of the ophthalmic trainee population towards research for their benefit and the benefit of the NHS and our patients.

The objectives of the networks were to create a system wide infrastructure to support ophthalmic trainees for participation into multicentre portfolio research and thereby develop core research skills including introduction to ethics and complexities of developing new treatments, study set up, day to day running of clinical trials and introduction to regulatory bodies such as the MHRA (Medicines and Health care products regulatory agency).

Trainee research networks in ophthalmology were formalized and endorsed by the Royal College of ophthalmologists in 2016 and ICH-GCP (International conference on Harmonisation- Good Clinical Practice) is now formally recommended as competence in the ophthalmic curriculum and participation in research constitutes part of the ARCP (Annual review of competence progression) requirements.

Ophthalmology Trainee Research Network launch included a national trainee think tank meeting held on the 29thJanuary 2016 that invited trainees from all regions in England to present research projects and network with trainees at a national level. This was followed by a session at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ annual congress in May 2016.

Since its launch several local ophthalmic Trainee Research Networks are already in place in regions of the UK (Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS); North London deanery; Northeast England & Cumbria) and others are being formed. Their purpose is to involve trainees in NHS research that is integrated into clinical care and to actively support new trainee-led projects with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

Applications for Research projects towards the Fight for Sight Research awards have been submitted. A second trainee research think-tank meeting was held on the 21st March 2017 that included master classes on adoption of studies to the NIHR portfolio and Cochrane review.

These trainee research networks have so far gone from strength to strength and you can read the following papers from the North East Trainee Research in Ophthalmology Network (NETRiON):