The INSPIRE Collaborative

Friday, January 7, 2022

Respiratory Futures meets Dr Akhilesh Jha and Dr Frances Grudzinska, of INSPIRE, the new INtegrated reSPIratory REsearch collaborative.

Aki, please can you start by explaining a little more about how INSPIRE came about.

This is a great initiative to be a part of. As a trainee I have been involved in respiratory medical research and can see how important it is in delivering benefits to patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented pressures on frontline healthcare workers but also inspired an amazing collaborative spirit in wanting to undertake clinical research, leading to the delivery of globally impactful and practice-changing new guidelines in managing the condition.

Other trainee-led specialty groups have built national research collaboratives to successfully deliver large clinical research studies. I am a member of the British Thoracic Society’s Science and Research Committee and I talked to this group, and the BTS Board about the need for a national collaborative. I also talked to colleagues at NIHR and it is with this support that we were able to progress to launching the INSPIRE network. I am grateful for the chance to work with colleagues to provide support to early career investigators.

What are the aims of INSPIRE?

Our aim is to build a community of healthcare workers and researchers working in respiratory medicine to help them to share ideas and facilitate more projects that will ultimately lead to improvements in patient care.

We want it to feel normal to perform research as part of routine care of our patients, in a sense embed it into our clinical practice. And along the way, we want those taking part to develop and gain confidence in their professional and academic skills.

Who is INSPIRE for?

It is the UK’s new research network for early career doctors, nurses and allied health professionals in respiratory medicine. 

Initially we have started the initiative targeting respiratory trainees but as the network grows, we want to make sure it is relevant to the full multi-professional respiratory team: nurses, physiotherapists, ACPs, clinical scientists, pharmacists to name but a few. Respiratory medicine is a great example of multi-professional team working and it is important this is reflected in research and quality improvement projects.

How does INSPIRE work?

We want to ensure that any healthcare professional who has an idea for a project that could benefit patients with respiratory disease is aware of the collaborative and has the opportunity to get involved.

As a very first step, we have put together various resources and useful links for people to access on our website.

Who is involved?

We have a Steering Committee, with appointed representatives from across the United Kingdom. Their purpose is to help deliver on the vision and aims of the INSPIRE network and ensure each member engages with, and disseminates information to colleagues across the country.

We are also supported by a group of established senior academic clinicians who provide strategic advice for INSPIRE, and who share a passion for developing the careers of early career respiratory researchers.

We welcome any healthcare worker with an interest in doing respiratory medical research into the wider INSPIRE network. You can see the Steering Committee membership on our website.

How will you involve patients?

This is an important point as of course ultimately the research projects we do should benefit patients, so who better to ask?! A lot of people may have heard about Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) but may not be aware of the nuts and bolts of how it’s done.

Our aim is for members to gain a better understanding of PPI and incorporate it in their research projects. We have already had contact from the British Lung Foundation and held talks with Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis about this. As a start, we have also curated a list of the top 10 research priorities for respiratory conditions produced by the James Lind Alliance in the resources section of our website.

This is a good time to introduce my colleague Dr Frances Grudzinska. Frances is a respiratory registrar and represents the Midlands on the Committee.

Frances, what would you say are the key benefits of collaboration?

As a collaborative we are greater than the sum of our parts, in geographic reach but mainly the skills we can draw on. We are here to support colleagues who have an active interest in research, but we also want to support people who have an idea to improve patient care locally that could be shared and implemented nationally.

The pandemic has shown us how effectively, and efficiently ideas can grow and evolve and we know there is a strong appetite for teams working together to deliver projects.

Often as a trainee you may have a burning research idea but lack the experience to bring that research to life. The collaborative offers support with the day-to-day logistics of research including support for ethics, PPI and perhaps most importantly, scaling up your project to enable rapid impact and improve care for all our patients.

As Aki touched on earlier, we also have the support of senior academic clinicians to guide and advise as needed. The breadth of our experience means that as team we will have overcome most barriers at one stage or another. We want the research pathway to be open to all.

What has been your experience of regional research collaboratives and how can this help INSPIRE?

The INSPIRE steering committee have significant experience in regional collaboratives. Working with that knowledge and experience has allowed INSPIRE to be ahead of the curve with all the teething problems each of us has faced in our regional collaboratives.

In the West Midlands we had lots of ambition and plans, but it wasn’t until the COVID pandemic that we really put the collaborative to the test delivering a project with seven centres and over two thousand participants in a four-month period. We learnt a huge amount about how to work across sites, centralising data, liaising with different NHS trust’s Research and Development teams for local approvals and then of course how to quality check and analyse all that data.

All this prior experience has meant that INSPIRE have taken advice from other specialty collaboratives and support from research partners such as BTS and NIHR to enable us to deliver high quality research for our patients, but also support trainees to develop as independent researchers of the future.

Ambition has been key to our regional journey, but also understanding where our strengths lie to capitalise on that experience. I think this ambition is central to INSPIRE’s journey too, and the combined experience means INSPIRE has expertise across the board of respiratory disease.

How can people find out more and get involved?

More information is being added to our website and we held a session at the recent BTS Winter Meeting to outline our aims and ambitions.

We are holding a Sandpit session online on 10 February 2022. You can find out more and sign up on our events page.

For this event we are calling for you to submit your project proposals with a deadline of 17th January 2022. Please consider applying! You can find the full details on this page.