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Top honour for University of Ulster PhD Student


Caption:  Marina Lupari (left) receives her award from RCN President Andrea Spyropoulos

A University of Ulster Nursing PhD student, whose research work saved the NHS more than £400,000 over a nine-month period, has been honoured by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Marina Lupari beat 300 nominees to pick up the prestigious Frontline First Innovation Award for her work with the Institute of Nursing Research (INR), which led to the implementation of a new model for district nursing in Northern Ireland.

The Magherafelt mum-of-three said she was overwhelmed by the accolade, but stressed that the success of her groundbreaking work was not down to her alone.

“We in the health service all want to make a difference and it is the most wonderful feeling to know that your contribution has been acknowledged,” she said.“This award is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of all the nurses who worked with me to make my vision a reality.”

And Marina paid tribute to the support she has been given during her four-year research by her supervisors at the University of Ulster, Professor Vivien Coates from the Institute of Nursing Research and Professor Gary Adamson from the School of Psychology.

“Without their support and guidance I could not have achieved so much success with my research, which was very complex and demanding,” she said. “It was landmark research which has never been done on either a national or international level and I will always be grateful to Professor Coates and Professor Adamson for helping me to make all this happen. Professor Coates supported me a great deal in my application to obtain a fellowship from the Health and Social Care Research and Development Office and that gave me the finance to help fund my PhD at the University."

Marina’s award recognised her work in evaluating and promoting a new model of community nursing for managing long term health conditions.  After reviewing necessary measures needed to support high-risk older people in their own homes, she established the chronic illness case management service (CICM).

To implement the scheme, 16 full-time nurses were recruited to deliver specialist care for patients with serious respiratory problems, heart failure and diabetic conditions.After securing the funding Marina and her team carried out a controlled trial involving 600 people – half received usual care and the rest the CICM intervention.

Quarterly comparisons were made over a 12-month period, looking at differences in outcome for the number of hospital visits, lengths of stay, health-related quality of life and functionality.The results proved positive, with CICM patients reporting a general overall health improvement.When Marina evaluated the care cost, it showed the difference in average cost per patient was £1,493 lower for those who received CICM. This represented a total saving of more than £400,000 across a subsequent nine-month follow-up period.

Professor Brendan McCormack, Director of the Institute of Nursing Research at the University of Ulster said: “I think the main thing is that Marina’s success really demonstrates how research work impacts when it’s put directly into practice.“Given that in the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) – the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions – impact is a vital part of the assessment process, then this kind of research is really important to us.“On behalf of the University I would like to congratulate Marina and her supervisory team on their great achievement.”

Marina, a mum-of-two from Magherafelt is currently the Assistant Director for Nursing, Research and Development at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.