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Health & Social Care Research Across North East & North Cumbria.


Meet the Team

Stroke is the fourth largest cause of death in the UK and the leading cause of disability, more than 1 in 60 individuals are living with the consequences and after effects of strokes.

Stroke research is a vital part of the portfolio and it has led to treatment to remove clots that are responsible for the most common type of stroke, as well as new and safer blood thinners to prevent stroke in patients with an irregular heartbeat.

Research has also allowed the development of stroke units offering specialist acute treatment and rehabilitation that significantly reduces death and increases the quality of life after being discharged.

Nicky Cunningham

Associate research delivery manager

CRN North East and North Cumbria

Dr Gemma Smith

Stroke specialty group lead

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Nicky Cunningham's research experience

I am an associate research delivery manager and lead nurse for the NENC CRN, as well as senior nurse research lead for South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust and a visiting research fellow at the University of Sunderland.

I have been nursing for 33 years, 24 years working within clinical research. I have held many roles in research nursing as well as senior lecturer in research methodology, clinical trials unit manager and project manager as well as a co-applicant researcher and nurse, midwife and allied health professional (NMAHP) engagement lead. Clinical specialties I have worked in include cardiovascular, HIV and macular degeneration research.

My real passion is in supporting nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to get engaged with research to improve practice and outcomes for patients. In my role as a research delivery manager I cover the specialties of stroke, renal and urology. diabetes, metabolic and endocrine disorders and cardiovascular diseases. I also run the #SteesBeCurious hashtag on Twitter!

Connect with Nicky Cunningham

Email Nicky

Follow Nicky

Dr Gemma Smith's research experience

I am a consultant stroke physician within County Durham and Darlington NHS trust. I graduated from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2006. In 2010 I began speciality training with Geriatric Medicine and it was this that exposed me to Stroke medicine as a medical speciality.

Research within Stroke medicine was the draw for me to complete subspeciality training in stroke medicine and subsequently become a consultant in 2017. Since then I have developed a wide interest in delivering clinical stroke research across the stroke care pathway. I have been the Principle Investigator for many stroke trials and in August 2023 I was appointed as the speciality group lead for stroke research in the North East and North Cumbria region.

I am inspired by those people who create fantastic trials to answer our clinical questions and my passion is sharing their work to encourage all stroke professionals to delivery clinical research to the widest group of patients. Stroke research has made a profound difference over the years and will continue to do so for a long time.

Connect with Dr Gemma Smith

Email Gemma

How to get involved

Our newsletter

Visit the quarterly stroke specialty group newsletter, where you can stay up to date with national and local activity, as well as funding opportunities.

Joining our specialty group

If you are interested in joining the stroke specialty group for the North East and North Cumbria, or take a look at the previous meeting notes. To be added to our distribution list, please contact [email protected]

Training to consider

Visit NIHR Learn and complete the Good Clinical Practice and principal investigator essentials training. Participants will need to have an NIHR Learn account to access these courses.  Information about NIHR Learn, including how to access the platform, can be found in the NIHR Learn Help pages.

Funding and API scheme

Explore opportunities for funding in the form of Greenshoot awards and schemes such as the associate principal investigator programme. These schemes are open to clinical staff who wish to develop as a PI, as well as receive regional infrastructural support. 

Sign up!

Sign up to our 'raising awareness of embedding research' programme. This three day course offers an opportunity to learn about the essentials of health and social care research and will provide an insight into how research is designed and undertaken across a range of settings. Contact [email protected] for more information. 

What's happening in stroke research?

Stroke Specialty Group

Stroke specialty group meetings take place twice a year, the content of these meetings covers a range of topics that relate to the specialty. This includes, but is not exclusive to; education and training courses, NIHR operations, funding opportunity discussions and annual stroke conference planning.

Stroke Patient and Carer Panel

Content coming soon

Join a Community of Practice

Content coming soon.