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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Exciting times for research and development team

Exciting times for research and development team

Posted on Friday 15th January 2016
jan smith and leon jonker

Research and development team: Dr Leon Jonker and Jan Smith

The research and development team at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is looking forward to an exciting year ahead, under a new, strengthened management team.

Patients have been recruited to a number of global research projects – helping to test innovative new treatments in areas including cancer, orthopaedics, rheumatology, cardiology, vascular and stroke, gastroenterology, urology and women’s health.

Jan Smith joined the Trust as research & development manager last month and is hoping to build on the excellent work already underway across a wide range of specialties. Jan previously worked for NHS trusts in Greater Manchester and also has experience in the private sector and in academia. She will be working alongside Dr Leon Jonker, formerly R&D manager, who has now taken on the new role of research project lead. The R&D Department further consists of a dedicated team of nearly 20 research nurses and practitioners, who are instrumental in recruiting patients and the collection of research data. In collaboration with the clinical teams, they have already delivered approximately two hundred different trials over the last few years.

Jan explained why it is important for a hospital to have a strong research department: “Research is ultimately about improving care for patients,” she said. “It means patients have the opportunity to have gold star treatment that might not be generally available yet.

“It is only through doing research that we can test and develop new treatments, whether that is drugs, therapies or technologies. We have to provide the evidence to say that it is the best and safest treatment available. Research also helps staff keep up-to-date with the latest developments, so it is also an educational tool.”

All medical research has to be approved by the national regulatory body, the Health Research Authority. Any member of hospital staff thinking of carrying out a research project has to have the backing of the Trust’s R&D team, who will help them navigate the approval process. Jan explained: “The national process for applying for approval is changing; the system should be much more streamlined and make it easier to undertake research.

“This is a really exciting time to be involved in research nationally, and also within the Trust. My appointment means we will be able to give more support to our staff in developing their own ideas, and also look at what other studies are out there that we could be involved in.”

Patients from North Cumbria are currently involved in a number of exciting national and international trials. In 2014/15 over 4,600 patients were enrolled in studies (approximately one in 75 North Cumbrians); this included 3,700 in the CATFISH study to evaluate the effects of water fluoridation on tooth decay in children. In the current year some 1,200 patients have been recruited to over 60 studies.

In August 2015 North Cumbria was the first site in the UK, and only the second in the world, to recruit to a trial in Orthopaedics involving a new device by California-based Ellipse Technologies. The Trust is currently the top recruiting site in the world, having recruited eight patients; other participating countries include Germany, Netherlands and Poland. The trial, led locally by Mr Matt Dawson, tests a new device to enable correction of osteoarthritis and varus malalignment (bow-leggedness) of the knee using an external remote control unit following surgery to implant the medical device.

In Cardiology, the Trust has recruited the first four patients globally into the ERIC-PPCI trial. The team, led by cardiologist Dr Madhusudhan Varma, were congratulated by the study team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who are leading on this multi-centre trial looking at the effect of applying a new medical device to patients who are undergoing a process called Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention for a heart attack. The trial aims to recruit 2,000 participants in more than 30 hospitals over a four-year period.

The Cancer research team, working with oncologist Dr Jonathan Nicoll, is the highest recruiting site in 2015/16 to the CORGI trial which is looking to identify inherited factors in bowel cancer to help target preventative measures, such as screening, for those at higher genetic risk of developing the disease.

The Trust is also the first hospital site in the UK to go live with a pharmaceutical company sponsored TITAN trial involving a new medicine for prostate cancer treatment. In addition, the Urology team, led by Mr Jaswant Mom and Mr Nkem Umez-Eronini, is involved in a trial for a new cancer diagnostic test for bladder and prostate cancer.

Leon Jonker, research project lead, said: “It has been proven that, the more research activity taking place in a Trust, the lower the mortality rates in the Trust. In addition, clinicians may be attracted to Trusts that are more research active, because it allows them to be involved in the latest developments in their field.”

For more information on research at North Cumbria University Hospitals, see the Research & Development pages on the Trust website at

Patients and relatives interested in taking part in research should talk to their doctor in the first instance. Further information about getting involved in research is available on the Making Research Better website at