Even when AHPs successfully participate in research, their value and contribution is less well recognised, and they suffer from lack of access to research infrastructure and support.
These are the findings of a review by Cancer Research UK, supported by the SCoR, which exposes fundamental barriers to research in the UK that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic.
NHS staff reported having insufficient time, funding and skills support to undertake research, with some having to take annual leave to conduct studies.
The report’s authors said there was a clear disparity of research engagement between different health service staff, with nurses and AHPs being particularly under-supported and under-represented in research activity undertaken by NHS Trusts and Health Boards.
Their study found that 38% of AHPs reported lacking confidence in research knowledge and skills vs 23% of doctors, and 38% of AHPs reported barriers in attaining sufficient research training in NHS organisations vs 25% of doctors.
Even when AHPs overcome these barriers and successfully participate in research, their value and contribution is recognised and encouraged less than doctors.
As one AHP lead said: ‘Depending on whether you are a clinician or AHP or nurse or any other professional, the funding is disproportionately skewed to doctors rather than anyone lower on the food chain’.
The authors concluded: ‘Further support targeted at under-represented professions is required to bolster their participation in research and expand research capacity. This support needs to be highly visible and accessible to these professions and include solutions to the practical obstacles to research engagement, such as a lack of time and funding.’
Key recommendations: how to engage under-represented staff in research
Government to create fully funded pilot programmes to offer a proportion of staff contracts that include dedicated time for research.
NHS employers to increase the visibility and accessibility of dedicated time for research.
NHS employers to consult under-represented professions to identify and address social and cultural barriers to engagement.
Increased diversity of professions within research project teams, especially in positions of leadership.
Research to be better connected to practice, with metrics and processes to capture and communicate the value of research in all its diverse forms.