Creating clinical academic nurse, midwife and allied health professional leaders for Wessex.


When did you first introduce the innovation?

More than 24 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

We have implemented and created a clinical academic programme for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. Clinical academics are central to advancing the science and art of healthcare, assessing the practical application of new evidence, and the teaching, training, and mentoring colleagues. Through this innovation we are facilitating senior leaders to shape the policy and commissioning agenda, generate research to improve healthcare, deliver and manage teaching and quality improvement programmes and develop leadership capabilities that influence the shape of care in their chosen speciality.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

The last two decades have seen major changes in healthcare needs, provoked by changes in life expectancy and the growing burden of chronic ill health. The rapid pace of scientific discovery and technological innovation has been unprecedented. Therefore, there was a need to develop healthcare professionals that are crucial to the discovery, implementation and evaluation of new initiatives to improve patient outcomes. We need clinical leaders who have the intellect, drive and skills to find improved ways of providing effective and efficient care and who can find answers to everyday clinical practice questions. We need clinical leaders who can analyse problems, find creative solutions, lead system-wide change, inspire their team, know how to test and change practice and who can bring about a culture of constant enquiry. We need clinical leaders who are experts in understanding the application of biological and human sciences and who can act as educators, mentors and role models.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

Unlike other doctoral programmes, clinical academic nurses, midwives or allied health professionals work in the NHS as clinicians while in parallel researching new ways of delivering better outcomes for patients. They are skilled clinicians embedded in practice whose training equips them to be outstanding researchers and teachers. They apply their analytical skills to improve patient care through leadership and educating future healthcare professionals. The importance of this role is that clinical academics are clinically active; their research is grounded in the day-to-day clinical issues they face. Clinical academic posts are often joint appointments between the NHS and a Higher Education Institution; this approach facilitates working across the organisations.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

We developed the clinical academic careers through using the existing expertise in both the Wessex NHS partners and the University of Southampton with the support of Health Education Wessex. This approach allows us to unite science with clinical care and build clinical academic capacity for the benefit of patients, health professionals, providers and commissioners. Set within a flexible career pathway our programme integrates clinical practice with research development from the outset and provides a structured framework from pre-Masters to Professorial level.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

The clinical academic careers’ innovation has resulted in a number of changes to clinical practice. Examples include: pressure ulcer risk assessment and repositioning by automated and conventional methods; exploring health literacy experiences of older adults and healthcare providers in clinical practice and; antibiotic stewardship – promoting the responsible use of antibiotics by individual prescribers through education and clinical guidelines and at the organisation level through audit and feedback and surveillance of antibiotic consumption and resistance.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Following the commencement of a Wessex Clinical Academic programme, thirty-six doctoral fellows have commenced a PhD programme as part of our NHS partnership scheme; in addition, eight out of ten NHS acute and community Trusts in Wessex are involved. The impact of the initiative is also reflected in the fact that we have two purpose built facilities for our clinical academic faculty and that over £1m has been invested by NHS Trusts in our 36 clinical doctoral research fellows.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

The innovation has been widely disseminated at all levels of the NHS and the University. Presentations are made to potential students at undergraduate level. In addition, a number of events are planned throughout the year that provide an opportunity for students on the clinical academic careers programme to present their work to key academic and clinical stakeholders. We have influenced thinking at a national level and our career framework heavily influenced the Department of Health document entitled: Developing the Role of the Clinical Academic Researcher in the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions 2012 We also contribute to the AUKUH National Clinical Academic Careers Group for NMAHPs. The development of the initiative has also been published in a number of journals:

– Latter et al. (2009) Implementing a clinical academic career in nursing: criteria for success and challenges ahead. Journal of Research in Nursing. 14 (2), 137 – 148.
– Coombs, M., Latter, S., & Richardson, A. (2013) Developing a clinical academic career pathway for nursing. British Journal of Nursing. 21 (18).
– Westwood et al. (2013) How clinical academics are transforming patient care. Health Services Journal. September 2013.

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

As the initiative develops, outputs will be published in international journals and at conferences. In addition, the results from the clinical academic work will be disseminated to key stakeholders working in clinical practice. We have also developed a brochure that sets out the features of our model. This will be widely distributed and made available on our website for other organisations who wish to learn from our experiences.