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City University London wins national public engagement award

Academics from the School of Health Sciences win prestigious national award for mental health public engagement work
by George Wigmore

Researchers from the School of Health Sciences at City University London have won the Health and Wellbeing award in the national Engage Competition for their public engagement work.

nullRecognised for successfully developing community engagement and collaborative working in mental health nursing research, SUGAR (Service User and Carer Group Advising on Research) - which is facilitated by Professor Alan Simpson from the School of Health Sciences - was the winning project from over230 entries. The competition is run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

Meeting monthly the 13-member group collaborates on all aspects of mental health nursing research. Consisting of mental health service users and carers recruited via local organisations, members of SUGAR receive education and training with group teaching focusing on research processes and methods. They are also provided with honorary university contracts, access to the library, computers and facilities.

The group has been a great success with consultations with service users and carers resulting in changes and improvements in research funding applications. Members have also helped to address ethical issues; refined and tested research instruments; analysed and interpreted findings; and helped disseminate results. Due to its impact, the model has also been adapted by a team of academics working with patients and carers in kidney care, including haemodialysis and transplants.

Since it was established in 2009, the group has met almost 50 times and collaborated with academic and clinical research staff and students on a large number of research studies. Academic staff and SUGAR members have also jointly presented at research conferences, given workshops and published a joint paper in the American Journal of Psychosocial Nursing.

A component of independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the long-term future of the group has also been ensured through a partnership agreement established between the School of Health Sciences and the East London NHS Foundation Trust.

Alan Simpson, Professor of Collaborative Mental Health Nursing in the School of Health Sciences, said: "We are very proud that our collaborative research work with users of mental health services and carers has been recognised in such a prestigious competition. Our work with SUGAR has given an added edge to our research while the service users and carers have gained useful knowledge, skills and confidence."

The judges also praised the project and the "thoughtful, sophisticated and deeply embedded engagement throughout the research process. The partners took ownership and the university has truly become their resource. Fabulous value and transferable to other disciplines."

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