22 November 2019
CRAG - The Clinical Research Ambassador Group

The Clinical Research Ambassador Group (CRAG), based at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), has been set up to provide patient and public involvement to support the trusts research activity.

The group, which formed in 2012, consists of a local group of patients, carers and members of the public who have an interest in which is undertaken across the Heart of England Trust. The CRAG also includes members who have interests in many different disease areas and hospital services.

Membership of the group is open to anyone within the HEFT catchment area and the level of involvement is up to the individual – from receiving and commenting on research information to actively developing research ideas. The CRAG aim is to shape and guide clinical research at HEFT supporting its members through education and promoting the non-tokenistic approach to patients and public's involvement with the research speciality.

Members will play an active role in reviewing clinical research and ensuring research developed within the trust addresses the needs and priorities of patients and carers and results in beneficial new treatments and services. In return a structured programme of training will be offered to the members and monitory expenses will be covered.

Background to CRAG

The Clinical Research Ambassador Group stemmed from involvement with the organisation INVOLVE which was established in 1996 and is part of and funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

The goal of INVOLVE is to support active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research. As a national advisory group, their role is to bring together expertise, insight and experience in the field of public involvement in research, with the aim of advancing it as an essential part of the process by which research is identified, prioritised, designed, conducted and disseminated.

INVOLVE works in partnership with researchers, research commissioners and the public to maximise the opportunities for public involvement by sharing knowledge and supporting active involvement in research for individuals who may often be excluded from research. The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust with CRAG is one of many organisations affiliated with INVOLVE who support active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research.

Why we need the public involved in research

The term ‘public' refers to patients, potential patients, carers and people who use health and social care services as well as people from organisations that represent people who use the health care services. All of us are actual, former or indeed potential users of health and social care services.

Public involvement in research is essential to enable us to gather a different perspective and outlook on the research we do within the Trust. You might have personal knowledge and experience of the research topic or are able to provide a general perspective. The array of knowledge we can gather from public involvement can ensure research methods and outcomes are important and relevant to the public and patient's needs.

CRAG Annual Open Evening Event – 29th April 2015

The Third Annual CRAG Opening Evening Event took place on 29th April 2015 and was a great success with many new faces alongside existing CRAG members attending to learn about the role CRAG plays in helping to support and develop the research conducted within the trust. The evening was an opportunity to showcase the work that CRAG is involved with both at a local and national level. It enabled new attendees to meet active research members of the trust and become involved with the research community. The research community is everyone involved with research: from nurses to patients, from carers to study coordinators and from family members to NHS Trust Boards.  

The evening was led by key note speaker Dr Govindan Raghuraman, Associate Medical Director and Consultant in Critical Care & Anaesthesia alongside researchers such as research nurses who presented on current research studies being carried out within the trust. The feedback from attendees of the event stated the presentations were interesting and insightful as it gave them an understanding on how CRAG has helped to implement changes to research studies.

The next CRAG Open Evening Event is being held on Wednesday 27th April 2016.

Upcoming events....CRAG Coffee Morning!

Alongside the Annual Open Evening Event, CRAG coffee mornings are held throughout the year in a relaxed informal setting which gives researchers the opportunity to update CRAG members on the status of current research studies as well as to gain ideas and feedback from members.

The next CRAG coffee morning is being held on Wednesday 9th March 2016, 10am-12pm in the MIDRU building. Please contact Emma Skilton, Clinical Trial Research Assistant – emma.skilton@heartofengland.nhs.uk or 01214242969 if you are interested in attending.