James Duncan, Chief Executive at CNTW, reflects on the benefits of collaborative working

James Duncan

As Chief Executive of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), I have witnessed the benefits our collaboration with Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) has delivered for the people we treat and support, our staff, and the communities we serve.

Our Trust provides mental health, learning disability and neurorehabilitation services across the north of England. Our wide regional footprint, and position as the host organisation for the North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration (ARC), allows us to collaborate with a range of partners in Newcastle and beyond. I firmly believe this collaboration is key to our success. The formation of NHIP three years ago enabled us to build on that even more.

CNTW regularly features highly on the National Institute of Health Research’s research activity league table, which measures how many studies we are running and how many people we recruit to take part in that research.

Taking part in research is vital, because the findings and evidence from research translates into real-world improvements to practice and treatments for those who use our services.

Working with NHIP, we have built on our world leading research in Lewy Body Dementia and mood disorders. This research, in partnership with the Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), has a real impact on patient care through the innovative clinical practice it brings locally, and through the influence it has on national and international clinical guidelines.

We are also involved in

  • Linking mental and physical healthcare through programs such as the Patient Safety Research Collaborative (PSRC) and AI Multiply
  • Research to explore new and better treatment options for depression in bipolar disorder
  • A multinational study into whether psilocybin (found in ‘magic mushrooms’) can help people with treatment-resistant depression
  • Studies exploring how virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy could help people with severe mental health difficulties, such as psychosis and schizophrenia, or autism with overcoming anxiety and phobias
  • Trialling a newly adapted type of talking therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease

Public involvement is very important to us, to ensure research is co-produced with people with lived experience of the conditions being studied. We are developing new ways to support this, such working with Northumbria University on an accredited course to help people with experience of mental health conditions to develop the skills to make meaningful contributions to future research.

Developing research careers for nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, and pharmacists is also a priority for us at CNTW. We consider this an essential part of providing good quality clinical care and treatment. The NHIP’s Academy is building on this work, providing more and better opportunities for colleagues to develop their research careers.

NHIP’s collaborative approach to research and innovation has allowed us to achieve some significant strides forward already, and I am excited to see what the future holds for our partnership.

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