Annual NI Clinical Research Network Staff Conference 2023 at Galgorm Hotel

May 31, 2023

On Thursday 25th May 2023 the Clinical Research Network welcomed our staff from across Northern Ireland to our annual staff conference, held at the Galgorm Hotel, Ballymena. It was a celebratory day, highlighting the hard work and achievements of our wonderful staff over the last year.

Senior Staff manager Ms Sonia McKenna welcomed everyone to the conference and introduced Dr Paul Biagioni, Senior Network manager who presented on “Our People, Their Story.” Detailing the growth of the network to over 100 staff, 13 speciality groups, 200 supported studies and over 2000 patients recruited annually.


Mr Shane Jackson, Portfolio Manager presented the next session, “How data illustrates the story (EDGE).” Explaining the importance of recording research metrics on the clinical research database EDGE for the local portfolio and national CPMS portfolio and the launch of EDGE Version 3.


The next two sessions were presented by our clinical research network nurses and highlighted how clinical research changes the lives of patients in NI. Ms Leeann Bryce, Orthopaedic research nurse BHSCT presented on the SCIENCE study: Surgery or Cast for Injuries of the EpicoNdyle in Children’s Elbows, a multi-centre prospective randomised superiority trial of operative fixation versus non-operative treatment for medial epicondyle fractures of the humerus in children. Leeann has received several awards from the study team for recruiting 24 patients making Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children first for recruitment across 68 sites globally!


Next Ms Samantha LaRoche and Ms Angela Abbate BHSCT presented on the SurfON trial, a controlled trial of early surfactant therapy versus expectant management in late preterm and early term infants with respiratory distress. One recruit, baby Jack McAllister is the great nephew of Professor Henry Halliday who researched the use of surfactant at the Royal Jubilee Maternity in Belfast. The Child Health team have also won several prizes from the study sponsor due to their outstanding recruitment.


We then welcomed Ms Bernie Pearson, HSC R&D Governance Manager at the Public Health Agency and Ms Alison Murphy, R&D Manager for BHSCT. Bernie discussed the future of centralised governance in NI and the positive changes this will bring and Ms Murphy discussed the new and improved Capability and Capacity process for Northern Ireland, both of these initiatives will expedite research timelines and allow for a collaborative, NI wide approach to research.


The three remaining morning sessions were again presented by our clinical research nurses. Firstly, Ms Fiona Gregg and Helen Graham BHSCT presented on DELTA a study using Cytosponge to find Barrett’s oesophagus and early oesophageal cancer. 104 patients were recruited to the study in Belfast with one patient receiving a lifesaving early cancer diagnosis.


Ms Teresa McKinley SHSCT presented on the EMPA Kidney trial, a clinical trial testing whether taking a single pill of empagliflozin every day prevents worsening of kidney disease or deaths from heart disease in people who have chronic kidney disease. Again NI recruited amazingly considering our small portion of the overall UK population.


Ms Aileen Smith and Ms Susan Regan presented on behalf of SEHSCT on the Ironman Trial, a study that wanted to find if regularly supplementing iron would help improve the health of people with heart failure in the longer term. IRONMAN recruited 1137 people with heart failure and low iron levels from 70 hospitals in the UK.


After lunch, during which each clinical speciality group displayed posters on their work throughout the year, Mrs Emma Byrne kicked off the afternoon session presenting, “How to Cross the Change Chasm.” Outlining the network’s rebranding process, the need for change and the future roadmap for the network’s communication strategy. Engagement across all metrics has increased and staff achievements are now highlighted and acknowledged on our website and social media.


Next up we welcomed Ms Emma Clayton, Emma is a communications and branding consultant with a passion for modern leadership and positive psychology in the workplace. Emma facilitated an afternoon session on, “Colourful Conversations – mastering the Art of Personality Driven Communication. Emma’s session was interactive and engaging, giving everyone a new perspective on their own style of communication and how they communicate with their team.


NI Clinical Research Director Professor Jonathan Jackson closed the afternoon with an informative session on what the future of the network looks like. Changes to the organisational structure and central governance will enable to network to continue to grow, recruit more staff, support more research trials and recruit more patients to our trials in NI.


Lastly prizes were awarded for best clinical research presentation, joint winners, GI BHSCT for DELTA and Orthopaedics BHSCT for SCIENCE. Professor Jackson congratulated all presenters and then awarded prizes for best poster, first place to Mr Michael McAlinden on behalf of the Dementia/Neurodegenerative team and second place to Ms Kathryn Ward on behalf of the Critical Care team and Ms Clayton was given a small token of the network’s appreciation for facilitating a thoroughly engaging afternoon session.

This brought a fantastic day to a close. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, now we just have to find a way to make 2023 even better.


Emma Byrne 31.06.2023