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Associate Principal Investigator Scheme opens to more specialties

Published: 15 October 2020

Following a successful pilot in Surgery, the Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme is now available to studies in additional specialty areas.

The Scheme aims to develop doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who do not undertake research as part of their usual role, to help them become the PIs of the future while helping to deliver studies to time and target.

Expanding to new areas

Since its launch in February 2019, the Associate PI Scheme has registered 89 professionals on 35 different studies involving 20 different Clinical Trials Units. 30 of these trainees have been awarded Associate PI status and been issued with certificates endorsed by the NIHR and Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).

Now the NIHR is expanding the Scheme to include the following specialty areas:

  • Cancer
  • Ear, Nose and Throat
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology
  • Surgical

Trauma and Emergency Care will also be rolling out the Scheme on a pilot basis. Studies in Anaesthesia, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management are being reviewed for possible inclusion.

How it works

Participants who register with the Scheme must spend at least six months delivering NIHR-supported research at a local level.

They also need to complete a standardised checklist of activities, signed off by the local PI and the Clinical Trials Unit’s study team or local Research Director.

Once completed, successful participants will be given Associate PI status as formal recognition of their engagement in NIHR Portfolio research studies.

Matthew Hague, Associate PI for the AceFIT Trial at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was the first person to receive a certificate.

He says, “As a newcomer to clinical research, it is great to have formal recognition for my work through the NIHR/RCS Associate PI Scheme. Contributing to clinical research has been a fantastic opportunity to progress in my career as a junior doctor.”

Get involved in the Scheme

Enabling research delivery

The Scheme is open to any junior doctor, nurse or allied health professional in the approved specialty areas, willing to make a significant contribution to the delivery of a study at a local level over a period of at least six months.

It has so far been endorsed by the following Royal Colleges:

  • Royal College of Anaesthetists
  • Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • Royal College of Physicians
  • Royal College of Radiologists
  • Royal College of Surgeons (England)

The ambition is to obtain endorsement from all the medical Royal Colleges and implement the Associate PI Scheme across all specialty areas.

Peter Hutchinson, Director of Clinical Research at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, has really valued the contribution of trainees to the delivery of trials across surgical specialties.

“The trainee research collaboratives have been one of the greatest developments in UK surgery over the past few years.” he says.

“Their contributions have previously only been recognised on an adhoc basis, such as authorship of publications, so the Associate PI Scheme is a fantastic initiative in terms of formalising their contribution and certification.”

Matt Seymour, NIHR Speciality Cluster Lead for Cancer, Surgery and Oral and Dental Health adds, “In the NHS, research is everybody's business. So we want every doctor, as they train for their final specialisation, to experience the thrill of being involved in research which will make lives better for patients.”

“The Associate PI Scheme is a great way to get involved, whether or not you see yourself as a career researcher. The energy, enthusiasm and ideas that you bring can make a huge difference, no matter how big or small the research study.”

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