Wednesday 23 October 2019

NIHR Award supports physiotherapist Kate Hallsworth’s research career

Dr Kate Hallsworth, a Senior Research Physiotherapist and NIHR Clinical Lecturer at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust/Newcastle University and joint Principal Investigator on a project co-funded by the Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), has been granted a Development and Skills Enhancement Award from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to support her in the next stage of her research career.

The Development & Skills Enhancement (DSE) award is a post-doctoral level award aimed at supporting National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academy Members to gain specific skills and experience to support the next phase of their research career. Kate will also receive match-funding from the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre as the host institution for her current research.

Kate’s current NIHR/BRC-funded research includes a feasibility study investigating whether a very low calorie diet is an acceptable therapy to achieve a target weight loss in patients with advanced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The success of this trial in recruiting and retaining participants from backgrounds who would not normally volunteer to take part in research studies and the positive impact of the lifestyle intervention on patients’ health means that it is now ready for testing with a much larger group of patients. She has also developed a novel, evidence based, digital programme to support patients with NAFLD to make and sustain lifestyle changes.

Kate plans to use her DSE Award to gain more experience of large-scale clinical trials, working with the NIHR Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) at Newcastle to boost her knowledge, skills and understanding of the techniques and processes involved when working with large complex multi-centre studies. Alongside her work with Newcastle CTU, she will spend time working with the NIHR Innovation Observatory (NIHRIO) horizon scanning to define the 10-year development pipeline for NAFLD/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) (medicines and lifestyle). This work will highlight where the gaps are for future interventions.

Read more about Kate’s current trial on Lifestyle Interventions as Therapy in Liver Disease.


Kate’s path into research

After graduating as a physiotherapist, Kate worked in the NHS for 10 years, specialising in musculoskeletal outpatients, cardiac rehabilitation and weight management. In 2009, she took up an opportunity to work with Professor Mike Trenell in the MoveLab at Newcastle University, looking at how to the build the evidence base for movement (physical activity and exercise) as a clinical therapy; Kate focused particularly on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Working in a research role inspired Kate to study for her PhD at Newcastle University (on the topic of “Physical activity and exercise in NAFLD”) before successfully applying for her current NIHR-funded Clinical Lectureship, which allows her to combine clinical research and research leadership with continued clinical practice and professional development.

As a recipient of an NIHR DSE award, Kate will be supported to develop the more specific and technical skills required for her to continue to pursue a clinical academic career.

Making space for research

On 4 October, to coincide with the birthday of James Lind (known as the father of clinical trials for his work on scurvy in the Royal Navy in the 18th century), the NIHR launched a new campaign entitled ‘Your path in research’. The campaign aims to encourage healthcare professionals to get more involved with research, highlighting the different types of support the NIHR can provide as the largest funder of health (and care) research training in the UK. The NIHR has an ambition to attract, train and support the best researchers by investing in academic career pathways for health and care researchers from all professional backgrounds.

Locally, the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has an established campaign, which recognises the essential role research plays in improving patient outcomes – even if they don’t actually take part in a study themselves. Newcastle’s #MakeSpace4Research campaign aims to enhance the access and participation of non-research active NMAHPs into clinical research, particularly, in response to the finding that 1 in 40 doctors are research-active compared to 1 in 1000 nurses.