Visitors from America join CMFT and NIHR colleagues to celebrate young people’s involvement in research

Representatives from the International Children’s Advisory Network (iCAN) were among the speakers at a special event in Manchester to showcase young people’s involvement in clinical research.

The session on Tuesday 26th July was organised by Bella Starling who is currently seconded from her role as Director of Public Programmes at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT), to undertake a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship.


It was arranged in partnership with CMFT, NIHR Clinical Research Network: Greater Manchester and NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Children’s Clinical Research Facility, with support from the Wellcome Trust.

Speakers at the event included Charles Thompson, Global Lead for Pfizer Paediatric Centre of Excellence, and his 18 year-old daughter, Hadleigh, who was representing iCAN.

Charles (who is also Founder and Chair of iCAN) and Hadleigh were in Manchester after co-hosting a session at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) on Monday 25th July alongside Bella and representatives from other international organisations, discussing ideas around public involvement in biomedical research.

iCAN is a worldwide consortium of children’s advisory groups working together to provide a voice for children and families in health, medicine, research and innovation.

Professor Nick Webb, Director of the NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Children’s Clinical Research Facility, was on hand at the event to discuss engaging young people in research at the specialist children’s facility, based at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Jenny Preston, NIHR Clinical Research Network Patient and Public Involvement Manager, spoke about the hugely successful Generation R programme, which she coordinates.

Generation R is a National Young Persons’ Advisory Group made up of local groups across the UK, supporting the design and delivery of paediatric research. Each regional group includes around 10 to 15 members, aged between 8 and 19 years old.

Bella Starling event - group speakers

(L-R): Charles, Professor Webb, Jenny, Hadleigh & Bella

Bella leads the Public Programmes team at CMFT, whose aim is to involve and engage people from all walks of life in biomedical and health-related research. The Team sits within CMFT, in partnership with The University of Manchester, operating as a small not-for-profit agency.

Bella said: “I would like to thank everyone who attended the event including many research nurses who work with children and young people, and play a vital role in public involvement in research; I hope that they found it informative and worthwhile. The aim was the session was to hear the latest local, national and international perspectives on involving young people in health-related research, including from the pharmaceutical industry, NHS-based organisations and young people themselves.

Guests found out more about a range of methods, including creative approaches, social media, and advisory groups, before asking questions of the panel and engaging about how they would like to see young people getting involved in research.

“A big thank you also goes out to the speakers today. Thanks to Charles and Hadleigh, who agreed to stay in Manchester following ESOF to showcase the fantastic work of iCAN, which includes members from 19 groups in eight countries across three continents. Also, Professor Webb for an entertaining and informative presentation about the amazing work of the children’s CRF here at CMFT and Jenny, showcasing the passion and determination of the Generation R group.”

Guests at Bella Starling event