The CSP has named the four senior academics who will lead the development of a national physiotherapy research network (NPRN) over the next five years. All are professors of physiotherapy from higher education institutes (HEIs). They are: Ann Moore, of the University of Brighton, Di Newham, of King's College London, Julius Sim, of Keele University, and Maureen Simmonds, of the University of Southampton. The group won a tender put out by the Society for a 'research champion' to implement the first phase of its research and clinical effectiveness strategy.
Professor Moore said the four would 'help to facilitate physiotherapy research at grass roots level', bringing a range of expertise and contacts that was beyond a single individual to deliver. 'We feel with a collaborative approach we can strengthen the research base by getting more people involved,' she told Frontline. Jill Higgins, director of CSP learning and development, said it was a measure of the profession's 'maturity' that the HEIs would be working together and not in competition.
'The professional body is supporting this wholeheartedly and is putting resources into it,' she said. The NPRN aims to help further the development of the scientific knowledge base and expand the use of evidence within physiotherapy practice. It will have a core committee, including the four professors plus representatives from the CSP and the research forum for allied health professions. There will be a full-time research officer based at the University of Brighton.
This core group will facilitate the development of a network of around 12 'research hubs' across the UK. The Society is currently appealing for individuals to become regional representatives or 'hub facilitators'. Dr Higgins, who is a member of the NPRN core group, said: 'We are looking for skilled researchers who also have mentoring skills so they can bring people together to develop research capacity across the profession.'
Regional representatives will build links with academics, clinicians, managers and other professionals who are interested in furthering physiotherapy research. They will seek to identify and 'nurture' robust research that is likely to attract funding and that 'fits in with NHS priorities and priorities for physiotherapy'.
The intention is to widen awareness, build a database of research activity and tap into what grass-roots professionals perceive as local needs. Prof Moore told Frontline: 'We want to hear from people in the field what kind of research is relevant to them. We don't see ourselves as policy making, we see ourselves as growing capacity and growing capability within the profession, and also increasing the uptake and use of evidence within practice.'
The NPRN will meet every three or four months to gain feedback and discuss issues related to research. The national forum will include members from the CSP clinical interest and occupational groups, including physiotherapy managers and consultants.
The network will also have a presence on the Society's website, which is expected to publish information ranging from details of new calls for funding, research training opportunities and possible collaborators. In the longer term, the website may carry interactive tutorials. Dr Higgins said the NPRN would work closely with the CSP's research and clinical effectiveness group. 'This is a very exciting time for physiotherapy research nationally.'