ACORN (Addressing Capacity in Organisations to do Research) Community of Practice

This is a group of 12 NHS organisations and one Local Authority that meets every four months as a community of practice (CoP). The members also work on projects outside these meetings to expand and extend knowledge together about RCDi.

A CoP is a learning community where knowledge in a joint area of interest is developed and exchanged in a social environment. For those involved in ACORN this interest is about

  • developing research capacity in NHS and care provider organisations

  • constructing and supporting research-practice career pathways ‘close to practice’.

At least one representative per organisation attends ACORN.

Aims of ACORN

  • Increase research activity and reach in health services and public health research

  • Promote skills in individuals to engage, deliver and to develop research questions

  • Develop and support processes in organisations to deliver research within NHS organisations and across healthcare systems

  • Support clinical academic pathways for NMAHPs

  • Increase research networks, academic linkages and make best use of research infrastructure

  • Maximize and recognise impact of conducting research

  • Explore linkages with the wider health and social care system to develop and deliver research

The organisations and representative are:

  • Priorities for the ACORN in the next 2 years

  • Nursing Midwife and Allied Health Professional Research Careers

  • IMPACT: Using the Victor tool in your organisation

  • Engaging General Managers in research activity

  • Increasing Principle Investigator numbers and professional group

  • ACORN Visibility

  • In – reach of researchers into NHS

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ACORN Members

John Hiley - Head of Research and Knowledge Services, Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust

John is Head of Research and Knowledge Services at BDCFT. The two teams, R&D and Library/Knowledge Services, integrate well to advance many aspects of Evidence Based Healthcare within the Trust. The R&D team have experience of a wide variety of projects in mental health, LD, dementia and various community services, and in a variety of locations from in-patient units, community settings to care homes and prisons.

The Library/Knowledge Services team support a variety of NHS staff and those from partner organisations with extensive support for EBH, skill development, and health promotion.

As such John's role is exciting and challenging, and fits well with his interests in promoting not only high quality research, but also developing the use of ‘research skills’ and the use of evidence in developing practice in his Trust.

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Asifa Ali - Research and Innovation Lead, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust

Asifa has worked in NHS Research for 16 years and has been R&I Lead for 10 years. She has an extensive understanding of NHS research governance, legislation and research practice. Her knowledge in change management has successfully led to improvement initiatives within her department. Prior to this she held several roles as a researcher in areas of education, health, criminology and minority studies working across academia and several public and government sector organisations. Asifa is also programme lead for the Trusts research skills programme, funded by Health Education England and delivered across Yorkshire & Humber. She has a background in social science and holds an MSc (Econ) in Criminal Justice Policy and an MSc (Dist.) in Healthcare Leadership.

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Julie Bury - Research Fellow, Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Julie Bury is a Research Fellow at Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals. Her role is to support research capacity building and raise awareness of clinical academic career opportunities​ for nursing, midwifery and AHPs. She is currently a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow.

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Alison Thompson - Head of Research and Development, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Alison is the Head of Research & Development at LYPFT where her team supports staff from all disciplines to do research and sets up, manages and delivers a broad portfolio of research studies in collaboration with NHS Trusts, universities, schools and the third sector. Alison began her career in research management in the contract pharmaceutical industry. She then established Airedale NHS Trust’s Research and Development Department in 2003, moving to Leeds to lead the R&D for the West Yorkshire Mental Health & Learning Disabilities Consortium in 2008. She now head up teams in Leeds and York, having grown the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio activity from a very low base to the current 35-40 studies recruiting over 1400 service users, carers and staff each year.

Alison was involved in setting up and remained a member of the national UKRD leadership team until recently (see In this role, she chaired the planning group for their first conference in November 2018, contributed to the multi-agency work to establish research as part of the Care Quality Commission’s well-led inspection programme and supported the development of a NHS R&D Peer Review proposal. She also met regularly with Department of Health & Social Care research leads to influence and inform the NHS R&D agenda, as part of the UKRD’s programme of work.

Alison has worked with Yorkshire & Humber’s (Y&H) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care building research capacity in the region, ie creating two new posts for Allied Health Professionals in LYPFT to complete their doctorates with Universities of Leeds and York alongside their clinical work. These posts are part of a new PhD network now led by the Y&H Applied Research Collaboration (ARC). Participation in the NIHR R&D Leadership Programme with LYPFT’s then Associate Director for R&D was instrumental in Alison and colleagues setting up the Y&H Research & Development Operations Group in 2015 which she chaired for two years. This group is jointly run by Partner Organisations ie NHS Trusts and the Clinical Research Network in Yorkshire & Humber. Alison was involved in the inner workings of NIHR grant funding decisions as a member of the NIHR’s Health Services & Delivery Research prioritisation committee 2016-2019. She is passionate about making a difference to people’s lives by improving health through research.

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Judith Holliday - Head of Research and Innovation, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Judith leads research and innovation at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust with responsibility for research quality, delivery and Research and Development (R&D). Judith currently works with a range of partners to deliver high quality research opportunities to improve patient care. She is currently co-applicant on two NIHR funded projects with partners in the Wakefield area, one looking at housing support for patients being discharged from hospital and another looking at the local vision for public health research.

In 2018-2019 she was seconded to work part time alongside this role, as Research Impact Fellow with NIHR CLAHRC YH to develop the VICTOR research impact tool which helps to identify and make visible the impacts of undertaking research in the NHS.

Judith has a background in social research design and delivery with experience across national and regional health, housing strategy, regeneration and development programmes. She has worked for Homes England, Yorkshire Forward (the Regional Development Agency) and the Academy for Sustainable Communities (a national government body leading on skills and knowledge for the delivery of sustainable communities). Judith is Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber R&D Ops group and an Improvement Fellow of the Y&H Improvement Academy.

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Nicki Barker - Principal Clinical Researcher and Advanced Physiotherapist, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Nicki is an expert on Dysfunctional Breathing (DB) and the creator of BreathWorks, the UK’s first clinic for paediatric patients with DB. Nicki is also a key member of the Sheffield paediatric difficult asthma service and presents at events in the UK and Europe. Her other responsibilities include Vice Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for The Children’s Hospital Charity, and member of the Research and Innovation Board and Clinical Research Steering Group at SCH.

Nicki’s current research priorities are into the efficacy of physiotherapy for children with DB, developing a tool for the early identification of DB and the development of medical technology to aid diagnosis and treatment of respiratory conditions. She promotes research activity in AHP’s and actively supports clinical colleagues at all stages of their research journey. She also supervises PhD students from neighbouring Sheffield Hallam University and fosters collaborations between academic and clinical institutions.

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Dr Jane McKeown (PhD) - Senior Nurse Research Lead / Lecturer, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

Jane works in a clinical academic role between Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS FT and the University of Sheffield, Health Sciences School, Division of Nursing and Midwifery.

In Jane's NHS role, she is currently half way through a 3 year NIHR funded programme known as the 70@70 Senior Nurse and Midwife Leadership Programme. This 2-day week role is focussed on developing research capacity and capability amongst nurses. It also seeks to inform the NIHR of clinical research priorities. Jane works in a variety of ways to help nurses to understand their role in research and supports nurses wanting to develop clinical academic careers.

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Lydia Harris- Head of Research and Development, York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Lydia is the Head of R&D at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and has worked in clinical research since 2001. She worked for National Institute for Clinical Research in London for 7 years, before working a year at CRUK, before moving into the NHS at the Royal Brompton in 2009. Since then she has worked in several NHS clinical research offices in a variety of management roles.

Lydia’s roles have all been around the facilitation and supporting of research at all levels in the NHS, she works to increase the capacity and capability of delivering research in an NHS environment and to raise its profile locally and nationally.

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Fiona Bell - Acting Head of Research, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Fiona has worked at Yorkshire Ambulance Service for 5 years, first as the Research and Development manager and now leading a team of research paramedics in the development and delivery of high quality ambulance care research. She has responsibility for research governance and delivery, also acting as co-investigator on a number of projects in staff wellbeing and pre-hospital care.

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