"How things have changed!": A patient perspective on clinical research

As part of our week-long series on the crucial role that clinical research plays in the NHS, Keith Wilson, patient research ambassador at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, writes about his personal experience of research.

I am a patient whose life was saved through the dedication of clinicians, nursing staff but most of all because of advances in clinical research. Coming from a family with a history of heart disease, I watched my own father and his brother tread the same path.

The differences between us were the treatments and procedures we received. I recall my father having to undergo an angiogram and being admitted to a hospital ward in the days prior to the procedure for preparation. He then had angiographic pictures taken, with far less clarity than the ones today, before having a few more days on bed rest prior to discharge. His only options for treatments were undergoing bypass surgery or receiving medication.

How things have changed! The difference between my father’s experience and my own was huge. I came into hospital; well I say hospital it was more like an airport lounge. Available to me were televisions, computers, massage chairs and I had the added benefit of being able to bring a family member or friend with me. I did not have to spend days in hospital before or after my procedure. I came into hospital on the morning of my angiogram and I was home mid-afternoon the same day. Unlike my father, I had the option of an angioplasty either on the same day or rescheduled for a more appropriate time.

I now know that multiple risk factors played a big part in the progression of my condition. I smoked 20-25 cigarettes a day. I also drank alcohol most weekends and ate what was convenient rather than what was healthy. My diagnosis changed my life. I no longer smoke, drink in moderation and I am more mindful of my diet.

Being seriously ill was never something I had anticipated happening to me, even though the chances are it will happen to most, if not everyone! With the increased knowledge of risk factors and advances in medicines, the outlook seems far more favourable for others and myself with many conditions.

Patients gain a greater knowledge of their condition through the close relationship with their clinician or research nurse.

Now my focus in life is around research. All the benefits I received from the treatment and the improvement in my quality of life have come through advances in research and the kindness of individuals who have taken part in studies in the past. I have participated in many clinical trials for various conditions in the hope it will help others like me in the future.

As a result of being a patient and taking part in research, I now work in the Research Department at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. My role here is to suggest ways of making research more accessible, open and transparent to patients within the NHS.

Taking part in research can bring various benefits to patients. Some clinical trials will ensure closer and sometimes extended monitoring after treatments or procedures and many patients gain a greater knowledge of their condition through the close relationship with their clinician or research nurse. In other clinical trials, there may be new treatments, medications or devices which would not normally be available. The use of technology may help with remote monitoring meaning fewer hospital visits and helping patients retain their independence.

Research is not just about the results or outcomes. It is about the whole mindset; the inquisitive nature required to look for things outside the norm. This benefits clinicians, nurses and the care of the patients, wherever or whoever they are.

As part of our week-long series on the crucial role that clinical research plays in the NHS, Keith Wilson, patient research ambassador at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, writes about his personal experience of research.

Find out more and sign up for our event How to embed research into NHS trusts to improve patient care on Thursday 28 November here.