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Research staff profile: introducing…Vari Drennan

Tell us about yourself

Professor Vari DrennanI am professor of health care and policy research, director of the Centre for Health and Social Care Research and associate dean for research in the Faculty. I joined the academic community after working as a public health nurse, senior community health service manager and professional head of community nursing. My academic background is in sociology and social policy. I was director of the Primary Care Nursing Research Unit at the Department of Primary Care & Population Sciences, University College London 2005-7 before joining Kingston and St George's.

I have undertaken a wide range of research concerned with key questions for the improvement of health and social care delivery. These include: health and social care services for older people - particularly those with long term conditions such as dementia, primary care provision, changing and developing health care workforces- including new roles, and interfaces between the health care system and the criminal justice system. All of my research activities involve public representatives and service users. I am particularly interested in the interface between policy and practice in arenas where public service delivery involves multiple agencies and for people who are often disadvantaged and at the margins of society.

I am a member of the Faculty of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) , panel member of the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme and advisory member of the Centre for Implementation Science in the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South London. I am also a Fellow of the European Academy of Nursing Sciences and a Fellow of the Queen's Nursing Institute. I was appointed as a visiting professor at Zhengzhou University, China in 2014.

What is your current research focused on?

I am involved in a number of funded studies on topical issues in staffing and development of the health service. I am leading an NIHR funded study investigating the contribution a new group of health professionals called physician associates make to medical and surgical teams in hospitals in England. This will report in 2017 but you can see updates on this and the papers from the linked previous study which investigated their contribution in general practice at the study website. We have also just finished a large project for Health Education England South London investigating how best hospitals can retain their nurses in their adult services. We have been able to present the findings back to NHS Trusts in South London to help them develop their strategies. As part of the CLARHC in South London, I am also involved in evaluating a network initiative aimed at developing the current and future workforce in primary care - this is very timely with so much policy focus on the issues of providing general practice and primary care.

What are you passionate about?

With my health service background I am passionate about being part of multi-disciplinary teams who help answer the questions that are important to patients, the public and professionals about the delivery of our health and social care services care. I believe that a publicly funded health care system is an essential element in the public health, the well-being of the population and the economy.

How does your research affect people's everyday lives?

While much of my research informs policy, for example our study on the contribution of physician associates has been used as evidence by a House of Commons Select committee examining primary care in England, it is also used directly by organisations and the public. So for example, I was part of a collaboration developing applied research to questions about the care of people with dementia in primary care. The programme of research was known as EVIDEM and led by Professor Steve Iliffe at University College London. I led the stream of research investigating how best to address problems of incontinence in people with dementia living at home - that research evidence has now been incorporated in the Alzheimer's Society of England fact sheet on incontinence available to anyone and especially family carers of people with dementia.

What is the best thing about carrying out research at Kingston University?

I am lucky enough to work in a Faculty that is a joint enterprise between Kingston University and St. George's University of London. This combines the research expertise and resources of a modern university with those of an established medical school.

Find out more about Vari Drennan on her staff profile page.