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East Lancashire GP hopes research role will help patients with post-stroke depression

A GP based in Nelson is hoping that his research fellowship with NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will help change the way patients with post-stroke depression are treated in primary care.

Aaron Poppleton, 29, who looks after patients at Reedyford Health Centre, has started an academic clinical fellowship, which aims to help GPs carry out research alongside their clinical training over a two-year period.

Dr Poppleton said: “There is a big push for everything we do as GPs to be done with evidence-based practice – that's increasing. I also have a great interest in mental health but know it's hard to step back and look at the big picture as to how things can become better. I saw this as an opportunity to consider how we can do things differently.”

For his research, Dr Poppleton will be focusing on the care given to people who have developed post-stroke depression. He said: “Depression is common problem after a stroke. I’m going to be interviewing patients who’ve been diagnosed with post-stroke depression, looking at their contact with general practice to see what the barriers are to talking about mental health, what they think will be useful and what they think GPs should be offering.”

“This links in with the CCG’s aims of improving access to psychological therapies and it would be good if my research led to more counsellors or counselling sessions, but hopefully it will also highlight any barriers for people. For instance, if a stroke patient says ‘my mobility is so poor I’m not going to be able to get out to a counselling session’, we can identify those types of barriers.”

There is always high demand for the few Academic Clinical Fellowship training positions available. Professor Umesh Chauhan, GP and Clinical Research Lead at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group and Mackenzie Chair of Primary Care Medicine at University of Central Lancashire, said: “We’re pleased that Dr Poppleton is working hard, not only in general practice but also on the Academic Clinical Fellowship. This programme is allowing the CCG to drive up recruitment of GPs and help us retain these highly motivated trainees, like Dr Poppleton, at a time of national shortage.

“It means we expand the skills and expertise of the future workforce, which is needed to deal with the growing health needs of our local population, while also helping us to establish links with academic institutions to develop and strengthen primary care.”