Plymouth Community and Primary Care Research Group: The Logic behind the name – Richard Byng and Nick Axford

What’s in a name? A lot, judging by the eye-watering amounts spent on re-branding exercises in the corporate world. We didn’t hire any advertising or public affairs consultants but we have changed our name, which begs the questions – why, and what does our new name say about us?

Emerging as part of a new medical school at Plymouth University in 2012, our group has grown substantially, bringing together a talented group of researchers and attracting funding in assorted areas of mental health, justice health care, health promotion and, most recently, multi-morbidity and new models of care.

It felt right to consolidate our group identity and explore how we could disseminate our research more effectively. Discussions about support for existing staff and promoting our reputation led to a healthy debate about who we are, why we do what we do and how best to convey this in our name.

As specialists in designing and evaluating complex interventions it is perhaps inevitable that we saw ourselves as a complex intervention in action and therefore had to have a theory as to how we worked. It needed to be explicit, coherent and shared by the whole team. What started as a jest become a brief but important piece of work, which brought together ideas about who we are, what we do and why, and what our relationships with the outside world need to be.

The themes for our outputs are relatively clear. We span the prevention-care spectrum, with projects ranging from evaluating the effectiveness of promoting smoking cessation in areas of poverty through to the study of multi-professional working within the emerging new models of care. Our studies may focus on adults, children or both. We are particularly interested in addressing inequalities and promoting multidisciplinary and multi-professional working, and we work often with marginalised groups such as offenders, those with mental health problems and older people with frailty. As ‘advancing person-centred care’ is core to the majority of the research we do, this was chosen as a strapline for the group’s new name.

We are pioneering realist methods and carrying out state-of-the-art public and patient involvement work, and have found ourselves in the forefront of developing complex interventions to prevent or address complex needs. So what is the logic model that lies behind these areas of work and ambitions?

At the heart of the model is the generation of high-impact practical theory and empirical evidence as a means to improve health and social care and health-related services locally and beyond – both by changing practice but also by informing policy. In order to do this, we recognise the need to understand the challenges faced by the NHS and health-related services, and to collaborate extensively with their practitioners and managers. As well as working locally, we want to partner with other centres of excellence, both to improve the quality of our research and also to support the recruitment and retention of the best staff.

In order to be person-centred we need to ensure a positive working environment in which each researcher and professional services staff member with their particular strengths receives individualised support to meet both their personal goals and team ambitions, creating a culture which is is both academically simulating and healthy.

The logic model for how we work as a research group to achieve our ambitions shows how our input as researchers generates the ultimate outcomes, namely to improve the health and well-being of NHS patients and recipients of non-NHS heath and health-related services. These are our ambitions as well as those of the university.

The model is in keeping with a ‘realist’ approach to context; we recognise our location in the South West Peninsula and the need for support mechanisms that are sensitive to the context of the individual researcher staff member.

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