The PenCIRN Network

Who are we?

Members of PenCIRN share an aim to improve the evidence which underpins health care interventions, particularly those delivered by allied health care professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, radiographers, occupational therapists and many more. Our members are all actively involved in the design, testing and implementation of health care interventions, i.e. care activities which are undertaken by allied health care professionals which have a direct bearing on the health and wellbeing of patients and their carers. We believe that almost all health care interventions are quintessentially complex and thus require programmes of sophisticated mixed methods research for these activities to be evidence-based and translated into clinical practice. PenCIRN members all share the belief that rigorous and integrated development and testing of interventions is required before they are implemented.

What do we do?

PenCIRN is leading the drive to re-focus allied health care research activity. Our main aim is to develop a network of researchers, clinicians and patients who can improve the evidence which underpins health care interventions. We are developing the skills of the research community to enable that community to design, plan and implement programmatic, mixed methods and complex interventions research. PenCIRN is, therefore, developing knowledge that is useful to practising professionals and that can be readily translated into their practice.

How do we do that?

PenCIRN provides both an online space and formal educational activities for its members. Our online meeting place enables researchers, clinicians and patients to come together from around the South West in order to jointly develop complex interventions research projects in relevant health care areas. Our formal educational activities include seminars and master classes on aspects of complex health care interventions, their development, testing and implementation.

And Why?

Allied health care professionals have a critical role in meeting health and social care challenges such as an ageing population, chronic diseases and new endemics, at the fore of our regional, National and International health concerns. Increasingly, such professions engage in a wide range of activities, many of which are highly complex and take place in multiple care environments. These include acute medicine, chronic care facilities, mental health, primary care, and residential care homes.

Allied health care practice is a classic example of a ‘complex intervention’ – an activity that contains a number of component parts with the potential for interactions between them. When applied to the intended target population these produce a range of variable outcomes. Modern guidance on research methods recommends that the knowledge base for complex interventions in health care should be investigated through a process of development, feasibility/piloting, evaluation and implementation, where there is a dynamic interchange between stages (MRC, 2008).

Currently, few research programmes into allied health care activity have taken this perspective. Reviews of such research show that it is mainly fragmented, non-programmatic, context bound and descriptive. This situation must change if allied health care professionals are to fully realize their potential for making a secure evidence based contribution to health and health care.

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