Research and Innovation
As a teaching hospital research into new treatments, drugs and therapies is at the heart of what we do. NUH is the host of a number of centres of excellence for research, including the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Nottingham Clinical Research Facilities.
Research has contributed to development of the NHS over the last 70 years and researchers in Nottingham have been a major part of that. Read what some of the people who work in research at NUH today think about working for the NHS in its 70th anniversary year.
Professor Stephen Ryder, Clinical Director of Research and Innovation
Professor Stephen Ryder has been working in the NHS since 1985 and is currently Clinical Director of Research & Innovation at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), a Professor of Medicine and Consultant Hepatologist.
As Clinical Director of Research & Innovation, Stephen is passionate about research, ensuring all patients and staff across NUH have the opportunity to take in research at the Trust. On why he enjoys his role Stephen says “research is by definition improving care. The whole aim is to make things better and to get better outcomes for the patients we treat. It is a huge privilege to see the way that new treatments and new ways of working change people’s lives for the better.”
Discussing why he chose to work in the NHS, Stephen explained “I absolutely believe that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world and that makes it a wonderful place to work. It has staff who are highly motivated with altruistic views which means you have the best colleagues to work with and can be part of such strong teams.”
Dr Maria Koufali, Managing Director of Research and Innovation
Maria Koufali is the Managing Director for Research & Innovation at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH). She has worked in the NHS since February 2005.
Discussing her early memories when first starting in the NHS at NUH and how it felt, Maria said “I was very excited to discover the vast research and innovation potential of the Trust and University partnership. I have been working at NUH for ten years now and I still feel the same way every day.”
Maria’s job is to develop the strategy, partnerships, and systems to develop and deliver innovation and patient-based research at NUH, to transform future patient outcomes.
On why she chose to work in the NHS, Maria said “I left a research career in academia to make a tangible difference to people’s lives. It was one of my best decisions”. She added that what makes the role enjoyable ten years on is “seeing the impact of research we developed ten years ago and how it transforms patients’ lives today."
Professor Ian Hall, Director of NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre
Professor Ian Hall has been working in the NHS for over 36 years, and this week is awarded a fellowship from the Academy of Medical Sciences, for his outstanding contributions to biomedical and health sciences.
Ian is a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and Director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) a centre of excellence based at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. He is also Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Nottingham.
Discussing his earliest memory of working in the NHS, Ian went back to his time in Oxford as a junior doctor: “The environment was completely different. We worked very long hours (before the EU Working Time Directive introduced shift-working), as part of a clearly defined team, and we worked effectively because of that team. But we worked ridiculous hours; my second job was every other weekend. My first job at NUH was in 1986 as a registrar.”
Ian’s reasons for working in the NHS are his belief in free healthcare: “The NHS, despite its faults, remains the benchmark for a healthcare system which is free at the point of access, and accessible to all. These are fundamentally important features”.
Describing what he enjoys most about his work, he says: “medicine is an extremely rewarding and worthwhile profession. The opportunity to contribute through research is also very important to me. It would be naïve to assume everything we do produces research that directly affects clinical care but, undoubtedly sometimes it does. It also contributes to the UK economy through collaborations with industry. I am very fortunate because very few roles have the degree of variety that I have in my job.”
The Nottingham BRC is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, improving the health of millions of people with diseases like asthma and arthritis.
Dr Melanie Ferguson, Consultant Clinical Scientist and Associate Professor
Dr Melanie Ferguson is a Consultant Clinical Scientist and Associate Professor in the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) Hearing theme.
Bringing to her role over thirty years of experience working in the NHS, Mel leads the mild-to-moderate hearing research team dedicated to seeking new knowledge and investigating new clinical interventions for the benefit of people experiencing hearing loss.
Describing her earliest memory starting out in NHS research and offering an insight into the technological advances since, she said “I was setting up acoustic stimuli to run hearing tests for the National Study of Hearing on what seemed like a super high-tech computer and electronic equipment. The boot discs were 12 inches wide!”
When asked what she enjoys most in her role, Melanie said “I love the sense that what I do has a positive impact on the lives of people with hearing loss. This can be through research studies, working collaboratively with those who are affected by hearing loss on a daily basis or participating in the development of clinical guidelines through organisations such as NICE and the British Society of Audiology”.
For Melanie, choosing to work in the NHS was about helping to improve the lives of others “I wanted to make a difference to the lives of people who have hearing loss by working in the best healthcare system globally. This includes working in both clinical and research environments.”
Olivia Hay, Research Facilitator
Before a research study or clinical trial can begin recruiting patients there are a number of stages and people it has to go through, and that’s part of the role of Research Facilitators like Olivia Hay.
Olivia works with clinical teams, external partners and patient representatives to set up, run and support clinical studies within the surgery division at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. (NUH).
Olivia came to the NHS following her master’s degree in Chemistry, where she focused on cancer drug development. It was from this that she knew she wanted to see how lab-based research translated into patient care and its impact on people’s lives. Explaining why she enjoys her role, Olivia said: “Every day is extremely varied. NUH is a very research active trust which is very exciting. There are still areas without any research studies, so it is extremely enjoyable opening up new specialities and potential within the Trust”.
It was her first experience of observing an operation that gave Olivia her a glimpse of working in surgery: “I was overwhelmed by the passion, team work and professionalism shown by the surgical team, which created the ideal situation to give the patient the absolute best care they needed”.
And after her first year in the role, Olivia says: “I am extremely proud to be part of team NUH”
William Cottam, Research Fellow
As a Research Fellow in neuroscience and imaging, William Cottam works within the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), developing innovative healthcare solutions to benefit and improve the lives of patients and the public.
William’s research studies the effects of chronic osteoarthritis knee pain on the structure and function of the brain. When asked what he enjoys most about his role, William said that “getting to interact with research participants is extremely rewarding, hearing about their individual experience and working with them to carry out the research”.
Since starting in 2017 following his research at the University of Nottingham, William has been based at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre – also home of the Nottingham BRC Imaging theme. Discussing why he chose to work here, he explained “the opportunity to work within the BRC was something I didn’t have to think twice about. This Centre, based between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, is an opportunity to truly make a difference to healthcare research and subsequently improve people’s lives.”
Nottingham has an illustrious history in imaging research, as the home of Sir Peter Mansfield and the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
He continued “as a researcher working in translational research, the aim is to try and make things better for patients. This is a huge motivator for me and many other researchers here, to achieve success and improve the lives of other people”.
Kelly Sandhu, Junior Research Officer
Kelly is a research officer at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, based in the Nottingham Children’s Hospital.
As a research officer Kelly offers patients the opportunity to take part in research that could potentially improve their own lives and the lives of children in the future. Describing why she enjoys her role, Kelly said: “I work with different specialties - rheumatology, diabetes, infectious diseases to name a few - and I love that every team has the same goal and passion for patient care and research. I also enjoy working with patients and being part of their journey in research.”
Her pathway into working in research came from personal experience as a child. Kelly explains: “Throughout my childhood I spent quite a lot of my time at Derby Children’s Hospital. I always appreciated the care they gave me, and the time they took to make my visits enjoyable. When I was in school, I knew I wanted to do something that helps others, just like the clinical team that helped me. I knew what an impact that has. While doing my Master’s in Health Psychology, I saw there were some flexible posts at Derby Hospital that worked well with my schedule at the time and decided to join the NHS because it had helped me so much, and I wanted to give back by helping others. It’s one the best decisions I have ever made.”
Sharing how she felt when she started the role and how she feels now, Kelly said: “I felt welcomed in my team and could see how passionate my colleagues were to be delivering research. Although everyone was very busy, they still took the time out to help when I had any questions and needed support, which is why I really value working in the team that I do. I’ve always felt proud to work in the NHS”.
Antonella Ghezzi, Head of Early Phase Clinical Trials and Clinical Research Facility Manager
Antonella Ghezzi is Head of Early Phase Clinical trials and Senior Manager for the NIHR Nottingham Clinical Research Facilities. In her role she supports Principal Investigators in the delivery of early phase clinical trials, organising clinical operations and supporting the research staff.
An early phase clinical trial is called a ‘phase I’ or ‘phase II’ study and is the first step of testing new treatments and medical devices before they are translated into general clinical practice.
Support has always been important to Antonella since she first qualified as a nurse back in 2001. Asked why she chose to work in the NHS, she said: “I was a young healthcare assistant with no previous experience in a hospital setting. From my very first day, I felt supported, encouraged and part of a family. One of the best memories I have is that I was acknowledged by a consultant surgeon, who used my first name, when introducing me to a patient. We both sat at the end of the patient’s bed to find out more about how the patient was feeling at that time and what we could do to alleviate their pain. I have always felt accepted and encouraged to develop my skills.”
It is interacting with patients that makes her work for the Nottingham CRF worthwhile. Antonella explains: “It is my responsibility to keep patients and their families safe and at ease when participating in early phase clinical research. The patient-health professional interaction is the most enjoyable part of my job and it is my aim to maintain this interaction and to train my staff to do so.”
Antonella says she has never regretted her decision to join the NHS, and if she could give one thing back it would be more staff to continue delivering excellent care for all.
Bonnie Millar, Project Manager, NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre Musculoskeletal theme
Bonnie Millar has been with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) since 2014 and is Project Manager for the Musculoskeletal theme of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
Describing her role, Bonnie “coordinates studies to make sure everything runs smoothly, recruit participants and facilitate Patient Public Involvement (PPI) working alongside patients and members of the public to support the research process, making it more effective, meaningful and sustainable”.
Bonnie came into the NHS specifically for research, to contribute to getting the right treatments to people; she initially joined to work on a randomised control trial (RCT) for tinnitus in the hearing theme.
“My earliest memory is of the first task I was assigned - to organise a site initiation visit with over 30 researchers and healthcare professionals from regional, national, and international organisations. I was amazed at the speed and how involved RCTs are”.
Summarising why she enjoys her role as Project Manager in the BRC Musculoskeletal theme, Bonnie said “I enjoy the variety and privilege of working with members of the public and researchers”.
Adele Horobin, Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Manager, NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre Hearing theme
Dr Adele Horobin has been with the NHS since July 2013, as Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Manager in hearing research, which is now part of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
She says "no research about me without me’ defines patient and public involvement – research done with, rather than to, about or for patients and public.People with hearing conditions and those who use healthcare services have unique insights that can inform how to design and deliver research around patient needs. I help and support them become equal members in our hearing research teams.” She also leads a regional network for developing and sharing training around how to include patients and public in research.
It is the contribution from patients that Adele says she enjoys most: “It is a pleasure to work and build good relations with people who have unique and personal insights into the conditions we research and who gladly give their time to help us. I also enjoy the variety that the role offers – I could be supporting patients at a research meeting one day, writing a paper the following day and then sharing what we do with families at a public open day the next.”
Discussing why she chose to work in the NHS, Adele said “The NHS is held in high regard - delivering care that is free at the point of delivery is such a valuable asset to society. The NHS is also a major contributor to health research in the UK and is leading the way in supporting the involvement of patients, carers and public in designing and delivering research. I value the opportunity and scope that the NHS has given me in my role.”
Claudia Washbrook, Divisional Lead Research Nurse
Claudia Washbrook has been working in the NHS for 16 years and has recently begun a new role as the Divisional Lead Research Nurse for two Divisions of Nottingham University Hospitals - Family Health and Medicine.
As Divisional Lead Research Nurse, Claudia provides professional support and advice to research staff working in services from maternity to Nottingham Children’s Hospital and services such as Healthcare of the Elderly. Her work includes ensuring that research studies are run to the highest standards.
Claudia first joined the NHS in September 2002 as a student, hoping to make a difference and care for people. She admits that being a student nurse on a ward for the first time was a daunting experience: “I felt so overwhelmed with how much I didn’t know that I accidentally followed my mentor into the toilet as I didn’t want to leave her side for a minute…the confidence came as my knowledge grew!”
Now Claudia says all the hard work has been worthwhile and she summarises her role as: “Making a difference to the care of patients through research and being able to support staff in their professional development.”