A North East Ambulance Service paramedic has been awarded a rare post-doctoral fellowship at Newcastle University to continue his research into improving outcomes for stroke patients.
Paramedic research fellow, Dr Graham McClelland, beat tough competition from across the country to be awarded funding by The Stroke Association to continue his research into pre-hospital stroke treatment.
Graham is one of the first paramedics in the country to be awarded a post-doctoral fellowship and is the very first to be awarded one by The Stroke Association.
Graham joined NEAS as an advanced technician in 2003 and qualified as a paramedic in 2007 before joining the Trust’s research and development team in 2011.
With a particular interest in stroke, he has already built a strong connection with The Stroke Association, becoming the first paramedic to be awarded a postgraduate fellowship by the charity in 2015, allowing him to undertake a PhD at Newcastle University.
The father-of-two, whose wife Fiona is also a trained paramedic, working within the Trust’s clinical call audit team, will now spend the next three years based at the Stroke Research Group at Newcastle University, conducting research with patients and clinicians across the region.
The Stroke Research Group studies stroke care from the pre-hospital setting through to long term rehabilitation and is a leading voice in pre-hospital stroke research.
Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK. It can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time.
Graham’s research aims to better understand pre-hospital stroke treatment, and to ascertain whether any changes to the current process could improve patient outcomes in future.
“I was gobsmacked to get the letter saying I had this fellowship, it’s an incredibly rare opportunity to pursue an area of work that I’m really interested in that I think might make a difference,” said Graham.
“Paramedics are usually the first healthcare contact for stroke patients and, as stroke is a time critical condition, minutes matter.’
“I will be looking into how the time paramedics spend with stroke patients can be most effectively used by studying local paramedic practice but also by looking at the services reporting the best performance across the world.’
“I am also looking at whether we can improve the communication between paramedics and stroke specialists using video software.’
“Paramedics already warn hospitals that they are arriving with a possible stroke patient, but additional video calling may improve the passage of information between paramedics and stroke specialists and allow faster or more precise treatment.’
“However, it is not yet routine to use video calling in this way, and there may be reasons why it may not be feasible in an emergency.’
“The overall aim is to improve acute stroke care. In all likelihood, we’re talking about incremental improvements — we’re working in a first world country with high performing stroke services — but every second counts when it comes to stroke.’
“This is a culmination of years of work, with each piece of research being another stepping stone if you like to where I am now.’
“I’m very privileged and lucky to be in this position. I feel I have one of the best jobs in the service, and I’ve got fantastic backing both at home and at work for what I’m doing which makes all the difference.”
Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at The Stroke Association, said: “We’re thrilled to be funding Graham for this postdoctoral fellowship.’
“Graham’s research could help to get suspected stroke patients to hospital more quickly so that they can receive the life-changing treatment they need, to give them the best chance of rebuilding their lives.
“At The Stroke Association we’re committed to supporting researchers to develop and progress their careers and are especially keen to support allied health professionals.’
“Graham is the first research paramedic we’ve funded and we’re looking forward to working with him over the next three years as he develops his career.’
“We are very thankful to all donors and supporters as without them we could not fund ground-breaking projects like Graham’s.”
Professor Chris Price at Newcastle University Stroke Research Group said: “We are delighted that Graham will be returning to the Stroke Research Group with support from the Stroke Association to continue his important work.’
“Every five minutes someone in the UK has a stroke. Our project’s aim to improve people’s lives by faster recognition and treatment during the crucial early hours.”
Graham is part of the research and development team at NEAS, supporting the development of high-quality research within the Trust and ensuring it is conducted and managed to a high scientific and ethical standard.’
“Ultimately the team aims to improve knowledge and understanding in order to make a difference to the people we provide care to.’
Between them, the paramedics working within the team have won several prizes for their research and, as a result, NEAS is considered one of the best services in the UK for pre-hospital research.
Daniel Haworth, consultant paramedic at NEAS, said: “Multidisciplinary, collaborative research is essential if we are going to continue to improve the care we provide at NEAS. By securing this fellowship, Graham is building on his earlier work and further developing robust, inter-professional research that ensures that clinical practice is evidence based.”
For more information about stroke, including the signs to look for and what to do, visit https://www.stroke.org.uk/