Sheffield research ambassadors reveal how clinical trials help patients

The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.
The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.
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Diabetes patient and Sheffield resident Lynne Dawson says it is essential people put themselves forwards for clinical research to help towards providing better treatments for conditions such as her own.

The 47-year-old, from Ecclesfield, is one of Sheffield’s research ambassadors who not only sits on a panel to advise on the recruitment of trial patients and identifies research priorities, but also takes part in studies herself.

The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.

The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.

Lynne, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009, says: “I appreciate how important it is for research to happen across any discipline – but particularly within the health sector.

“I saw a poster at my GP’s surgery, asking for volunteers and it sounded like a good way to influence treatments and research for diabetes.

“Being part of an advisory panel gives me the chance to put forward the patient point-of-view, which is important in research.”

Lynne is currently taking part in a study called ‘Exploring the Relationship between Hypoglycaemia and Autonomic Neuropathy in Type One Diabetes’.

The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.

The Sheffield Clinical Research Facility provides a dedicated space for patients to take part in research, in a warm and welcoming environment.

It aims to find out why people suffer hypo unawareness, which is where individuals with type one diabetes, are frequently unable to notice when they have low blood sugar.

Loss of hypo awareness can be troubling, and at times dangerous, so taking steps to regain awareness of hypo-warning signs is important for patients.

Lynne says: “Research like this won’t only help me, but others. In 10 to 20 years’ time I may be affected by something like loss of hypo awareness – which is a scary thought. If we contribute to research like this then we can help to combat these problems in the future.”

The thought of undergoing numerous tests and feeling like somewhat of a guinea pig can be what puts people off signing up for clinical trials, but Lynne is keen to point out this is not the case.

Diabetes patient Lynne Dawson is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Diabetes patient Lynne Dawson is a research ambassador in Sheffield

She says: “Most clinical research I have seen is non-invasive – simply completing a questionnaire or taking part in interviews.

“Some research can be done at home or online and you don’t even need to have a condition to take part in research – some are healthy volunteers who simply want to help to strive for better treatments.

“I would definitely recommend other people to get involved. As a patient you have a better understanding of treatments available to you, so you can make better informed decisions about your own health care.”

Fellow research ambassador Brenda Riley agrees.

Diabetes patient Lynne Dawson is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Diabetes patient Lynne Dawson is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Having been diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2005, the 67-year-old, from Walkley, Sheffield, threw herself into finding out more about the condition.

She joined the Diabetes UK Sheffield Group, which aims to provide support, help, companionship, education and information for people living with diabetes, and is part of Diabetes Voices, where volunteers take part in local campaigns to help to change lives of patients.

As of 2013, Brenda also sits on the Diabetes and Endocrinology Patient Panel at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, to ensure research is patient focused. And she too is taking part in ongoing clinical studies.

She says: “In a nutshell, taking part in research has given me a new interest in the science of research and health, and of diabetes in particular. It has made me feel I am doing something worthwhile towards the improved quality of life of all patients with diabetes.”

The first study in which Brenda is involved aims to find out how the processing of neuropathy pain signals is altered by diabetes, which could lead to better treatments and alleviate the problem.

The second is to investigate whether people who develop a particular diabetic problem increase the risk of developing reduced warnings of hypoglycaemia.

Diabetes patient Brenda Riley is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Diabetes patient Brenda Riley is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Brenda says: “I definitely encourage others to consider taking part in research. Each project is different and has different demands on your time and involvement, but you can decline any projects you feel do not suit you.”

* To find out more about clinical research at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS foundation trust, call 0114 226 5935.

* A survey on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research’s clinical research network has revealed more people diagnosed with a medical condition or disease would be willing to take part in clinical research than ever before.

Findings include:

90 per cent of people in Sheffield would be willing to take part in clinical research, with only 3 per cent of those questioned saying they would not consider it at all.

97 per cent of people in the city said it was important the NHS carries out clinical research.

Almost 60 per cent of the people surveyed in Sheffield said receiving a diagnosis for a medical condition or disease would be a factor most likely to motivate them to take part in clinical research,

Dr Simon Howell, of the network, says: “Clinical research in the NHS rests on an invaluable partnership with the public. The results of clinical research benefit all of us and drive up the quality of care.

“This survey shows the success of the National Institute for Health Research and NHS organisations in delivering research and the high value the public put on this.”

Diabetes patient Brenda Riley is a research ambassador in Sheffield

Diabetes patient Brenda Riley is a research ambassador in Sheffield