Great Northern Research Conference (21-22 Nov 2023)

by | 8 Jan 2024 | Events | 0 comments

Blog by Dr Lisa Riste

Sometimes you end up where you’re meant to be…and realise you’ve come full circle

In the Summer, Darren Ashcroft (director of the NIHR GM PSRC) asked if I’d seen the announcement for CRNs Great Northern Research Conference (Day 1 Life Sciences and Day 2 Medical Technologies) that might be useful for FLAG-Me Vision, our project which uses software to alert community pharmacists to patients who have a sight impairment, so they can be offered additional support to reduce medication safety risks.

I joined the ‘interested list’ and a month before the event received notification booking was open. I tried to book but tickets were showing as ‘sold out’ for researchers, but still available for entrepreneurs (FLAG-Me is a Social Enterprise and I was in receipt of UKRI/ESRC Entrepreneurial Funding) so it seemed OK. At the same time, Karen emailed asking if I was going and inviting me to join her on the PSRC stand. Tickets were still available for stand holders, so I ticked both those boxes and breathed a sigh of relief.

I set off bright and early with a car boot full of our FLAG-Me Vision ‘props’ – medication boxes with braille obscured by dispensing labels, images showing the similarity of medication and another the numbers of medications used by one of our PPIE group who is registered blind, my laptop pre-loaded with our explainer video, my travel mug of coffee and trusty sat nav. (Despite my Dad having worked at Manchester Airport for over 30 years until he retired aged 55, I had no idea where Runway Visitor Park was).

What an amazing venue, the showcase took place under the wings of Concorde, the nose pointing directly to the coffee (a clear invitation to more caffeine). All around the edge of the room were tables set up to promote work of the various research organisations including our own PSRC, with our table also being shared by Yorkshire & Humber PSRC, so an added bonus was meeting Dave Aldred & Luke Budworth too. In the Discovery zone there were stands from NIHR, CRN, NICE, MHRA, and Biobank (I’m participating in their Imaging study next week – my philosophy has always been we can’t expect people to participate if we’re not prepared to do it ourselves).

The programme was filled with a nice variety of talks that ranged from how Research in the North helps alleviate health inequalities, an Augmented-AI Atrial Fibrillation case finding study, advice from MHRA Head of Devices about getting innovations into usage and then onto how Med Connect North had supported a feasibility study called BEST which captures pre- and post-op data on Quality of Life for patients undergoing birthmark removal using a single electrosclerotherapy treatment.

Lunch was amazing too.

The afternoon session saw a choice of workshops. The first I chose was with on funding opportunities with NIHR (Dr Ian Newington) who encouraged me to apply for their Invention for Innovations’ Primary Care focussed ‘FAST’ Round 3 competition. In research world things usually move slowly, but true to their name applications had to be started within two days (24th Nov) and closed 1st Dec. As usual our Rhona and Rebecca worked their magic to assist with application costings, our bid (to trial implementation of our software code with a pharmacy software supplier) was submitted and we are now awaiting the outcome due end January, with a start date of 1st March 2024.

The second workshop by egTechnology, focussed on implementing software as a service (SaaS) who outlined the various processes and signoffs required before proving your ideas are designed to be fit for purpose, how they meet test specifications and NHS standards (via Digital Technology Assessment Criteria) and warnings around how changes and adding new features then mean the whole cycle needs repeating. A really useful reality slap as I always think FLAG-Me Vision as looming on the horizon for being launched into community pharmacy rather than it being about to get stuck in a 12-18 month approval backlog in the UK.

The icing on the cake was a guided tour of Concorde, I’d certainly never been onboard before, although I shared with the tour guide and group that Dad had taken us up in the control tower at the airport where he worked to see Concorde when she first flew into Manchester on her maiden voyage in 1980.  I’m hoping once the weather improves and now I’ve got Dad a wheelchair I can take him up to see her himself (although frailty means he won’t be able to make it up the 27 steps onboard). Its a definite role reversal, but at least now I know the way there!

All in all, a very useful meeting and a lovely trip down memory lane.

Dr Lisa Riste
Research Fellow Patient Safety Research Collaboration 
UKRI/ESRC & Zinc Healthy Ageing Challenge Catalyst Awardee
& Founder FLAG-Me CIC