This NHS England funded programme aims to enable the development and growth of local networks to engage with local communities to increase the diversity of participation in research. NHS England’s Long Term Plan states an ambition to increase the numbers of people participating in research to 1 million people registering their interest by 2023/24.

There is also a specific need to increase the diversity of people who get involved in research, both as research recruits, and in study design. We know there is a prevalence of white, older people who get involved in research. Without diverse participants in research, there is a risk that research outcomes will not be as effective across diverse population groups and that research trials will not be designed to meet the needs of a diverse population.

Meeting of diverse community group

People in southeast London are dying too soon. A major contributing factor to this is that modifiable risk factors for later ill-health such as the Vital 5  (blood pressure, obesity, mental health, smoking status, alcohol intake) are not being equitably detected or acted upon. Specific communities across southeast London are at higher risk including Black African and Caribbean, South Asian and people experiencing socioeconomic deprivation.

Recent Vital 5 related studies within these communities indicate a resident preference for culturally tailored services and resources to improve self-management and engagement with health services. Residents have identified wider mistrust in healthcare professionals and health systems as a barrier to research participation, despite their strong desire for improved health outcomes and co-design of health services. Known opportunities to address these insights include: 

  • Enabling research to be carried out by and within these communities. This includes research delivered by community-based organisations (CBOs).
  • Embedding research opportunities within community settings, including taking place-based and primary care network -based approaches. 
  • Increasing the cultural sensitivity of healthcare professionals to enable them to engage communities in more inclusive and equitable ways. 

We’re pleased to be contributing to the evaluation of this important programme of work to understand how it is improving participation in research and helping to address the health challenges of diverse local communities in southeast London.

Professor Nick Sevdalis

Professor Nick Sevdalis, professor of implementation science at King’s College London

The new programme will provide funding to begin implementation of these opportunities through four key workstreams: 

  • Workstream 1: Co-design a CBO-led approach to increasing research participation.
  • Workstream 2: Pilot the CBO-led approach to develop two diverse and representative Community-Based Research Networks (CBRNs).
  • Workstream 3: Pilot and upskill CBOs to support research activity and pilot this approach for selected Vital 5 related issues. 
  • Workstream 4: Pilot and upskill selected healthcare professionals in cultural sensitivity practices.
  • Workstream 5: (a) project management, (b) evaluation, (c) stakeholder communication.

The programme will involve collaboration with a range of partners including: Mabadiliko, a community interest company specialising in creating workplaces and communities that are inclusive and provide equity for all racial groups,  Integrated Care System South East London, King’s Health Partners, NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN)  and ARC South London.