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Helen Richmond is a post-doctoral research associate at the Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Oxford. Her work is focused on the implementation of the Back Skills Training Programme intervention, part of CLAHRC Oxfords ‘Health behaviours and behavioural interventions’ theme, under Professor Sallie Lamb.


Who Are you and where are you from?

I’m Helen Richmond, I’m a physiotherapist working as a post-doctoral researcher.

I’m from Rugby – where the sport originated from – and I’ve never really moved far away from there! I did move to Oxford, but then I moved back to Rugby again, so now I commute in every day and it’s a long way!

I also play a lot of badminton, county badminton for Warwickshire. I like running and I recently cycled to Paris for my birthday.

G: Are you ok? What on earth would make you do something like that on your birthday?!

Well, I wanted to do something different and I get so fed up sitting down all day, especially with the commute, it’s a three hour round trip.

So, I thought “I want to be on my feet and doing something!” I love being outdoors, and generally being active.

How did you get involved in physiotherapy?

I’ve always enjoyed interacting with and helping people. Physiotherapy is very diverse and offered the chance to work in a wide range of clinical areas, which I found really appealing. I liked the idea of developing a set of practical skills that I could use to help patients and, hopefully, improve their quality of life.

When I joined the NHS as a physiotherapist, the majority of my patients had chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Which is what led to my interest in rehabilitation of chronic health conditions, and in how we can improve care for these patients.

I was fortunate enough to get funding for a Masters and then a subsequent PhD exploring how to implement evidence into practice for the management of low back pain, leading me to my current research position at the Centre for Rehabilitation Research at Oxford University.

What does your specific research for the CLAHRC focus on?

My work is focused on the implementation of the Back Skills Training programme (BeST) – which involves understanding why it is not currently used in practice, and finding viable solutions to support its use in clinical practice.

BeST has a large evidence base behind it which demonstrated that it was effective on a range of clinical and cost-related outcomes up to three years after treatment. So getting this programme into regular clinical practice can really make a difference to the lives of patients with low back pain.

Our work has involved adapting the clinician training in the BeST programme from its original face-to-face format to an online course that could be shared more widely, maximising its impact on patient care.

Part of this involved identifying the sorts of barriers to implementing the programme and using evidence-based behaviour change techniques to improve the online training, to target and overcome these barriers.

We’ll be measuring the impact this has on both clinicians and patients. It’s an exciting project – and I hope to see that we are making a real difference!

Aside from this, we are also interested in how we can better design / report interventions so that it’s easier for clinicians to take and use in their everyday clinical practice.

What do you actually spend most of your time doing?

At the minute I’m spending a lot of my time developing training course materials for the Back Skills Training (.pdf download) programme that we’re working on, which is taking a lot of time, and developing videos and paper based materials to promote and raise awareness of the programme.

I also spend quite a bit of time liaising with clinicians trying to create links to departments in clinical practice to establish a network of people we can disseminate our research to, and engage with, and also for them to feed into what we’re doing.

Helen Richmond - ParisWhat’s most exciting or interesting about your role? What gets you out of bed everyday to do it? Presumably it’s not the drive down from Rugby…

I’m really passionate about enhancing and delivering high quality patient care. This research is exciting as we’re working towards bridging the gap between research and clinical practice, which will hopefully improve management for all patients with persistent low back pain, and ultimately have a positive impact on their lives.

I also really like working with Amanda Hall, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Research Fellow, she’s really fun!

Also, I love being a part of Oxford University, it’s a beautiful place to be!

What’s next on your to-do list?

The CLAHRC review forms, from Sallie Lamb, CLAHRC Theme 2 lead and lead for this project! So, those are on my list, then some feedback from physiotherapists on the Evidence Briefs we’ve put together.

I’ve also got some papers that are due to be finished! And again, working away on the online training course.

Who do you work with?

Actually my team is quite small, though our overall group is a good size.

I work at the Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Oxford, which is led by Professor Sallie Lamb. Our group is split into to two, we have the more emergency medicine, acute trauma side that are based at the John Radcliffe hospital. And then there’s the more rehabilitation, chronic conditions side, which is based at the Botnar Research Centre.

There’s a number of projects in our group, so our team is quite big in that sense, but the actual team working on the implementation of the Back Skills Training is quite small.

There’s just myself working on it full time, and then there’s Amanda Hall, an implementation research fellow from Newfoundland in Canada, she works with me part-time. It’s been really great having her with us, she’s really knowledgeable.

We also work with a fantastic junior statistician, Bethan Copsey, who is amazing at everything! We have some good support from more senior team members too, such as Beth Fordham, our health psychologist. One of our focuses has been to expand our network in terms of the clinicians, GPs, and NHS managers that we collaborate with – I think the CLAHRC has been really useful for that.

Locally, we have a great senior clinical physiotherapist working with us a few hours/week on an internship from Oxford Health, who has been a great link to clinicians working in Primary Care in Oxford.

More recently, we have been really lucky to have Gavin support our team, who has just helped us to produce two amazing posters!

G: You don’t have to say that…

BEST - Assessing barriers to implementation BEST - Evaluating impact