3 minutes: Diarmuid Denneny a lucky fellow

Diarmuid Denneny is coming to the end of a year’s pre-doctoral fellowship, spent on research into pain management. How will he use what he’s learned?


Tell us about your fellowship

This fellowship scheme, delivered by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) North Thames, came along at just the right time in my career. CLAHRCs deliver nationally relevant research that responds directly to local needs and priorities, and increase the speed at which research evidence is put into practice. The scheme is designed for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, and aims to raise levels of research activity and develop future research leaders.  

What’s the focus of your research?

I’m lucky to be at the centre for primary care and public health at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London. My supervisor is Professor Stephanie Taylor, a practising GP who has published extensively in the field of self-management for long-term conditions, including asthma, hypertension and pain. This year has allowed me to focus on writing up several pieces of work for publication, some of which I was struggling to find the time to complete, and other work including;
  • a systematic review of trigger-point manual therapy for chronic non-cancer pain, 
  • a qualitative piece on observed behaviours of experienced pain physiotherapists, 
  • a rapid review of automated functional data-collection in pain research,
  • the opportunity to work as part of a very experienced team on a meta review of self-management for hypertension. 
I have also been able to develop my research ideas and want to explore self-management for people who have chronic pain and opioid-use disorder. I am particularly interested in the role for physiotherapy and independent prescribers in this area. 
The fellowship has given me the confidence to apply for and become education officer for the Physiotherapy Pain Association, a CSP professional network. It has also supported me to apply for, and become, the Allied Health Professions’ representative on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline development committee for persistent pain guidelines, due to be published towards the end of 2019. 

Do you juggle it with other work? 

A condition of the fellowship is to continue with clinical work one day a week. I lead a team of physiotherapists at the pain management centre at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery – a world-renowned centre for pain management. I am lucky to work with a great team who have stepped up to the challenge of having me away four days a week. 

How will you use what you have learned?

The fellowship has given me the skills to assess opportunities to implement research in my clinical setting. I have learned that to succeed as a clinical academic it is important to engage with all the groups already out there and to develop a thick skin and the ability to take constructive points from all feedback. I hope to undertake further postgraduate study and plan to apply again for the NIHR PhD fellowship. 

How can others follow your lead? 

I would encourage all physiotherapists to look at the Health Education England/NIHR integrated clinical academic programme for non-medical healthcare professions.  Make links and network. Become an active member of groups related to your area of interest or to research, such as your regional hub for the Council for Allied Health Professions Research. And check out your local NIHR research design service, which gives great free advice on research ideas. At grass roots level, becoming involved in service audit, journal clubs and research committees are all great ways to get started. 
  • Diarmuid Denneny is a research fellow in a programme run by Health Education England North Central and East London/Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care. He is also the team lead physiotherapist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London.

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