Service user Michael Potts

Research is a normal part of everyday life

Research is a normal part of everyday life- whether that’s in the NHS, in the community, business or even social media.

Making progress in any field always involves testing new ideas, says Michael Potts, a former teacher and therapist who is keen to see the idea of research normalised.

“People are involved in research and don’t know it,” he said. “It can simply be about having your say on social media, deciding which school is best for your child or responding to a survey. It’s just a part of life. Past medical research has got us to where we are today and if that is helping you, why not think about doing something to help others in the future?”

Michael says it is important that service users and patients are seen as partners in research as well as care. Many people aren’t aware that as well as taking part in research studies, there are also opportunities to help shape new research through focus groups, surveys and user groups.

His own experience of research has been at the Royal Oldham Hospital where he’s been involved in a study comparing different treatments for kidney stones.

Around one person in 11 across the world gets kidney stones and these can cause back pain, non-visible blood in the urine or a urinary infection. If a stone is more than a few millimetres across, specialists usually advise treatment to get rid of it.

In this study, specialists are comparing three different treatments, two involving surgery to remove or break up the stone and another using a shockwave treatment applied from the outside of the body to break the stone into smaller pieces so it can be passed naturally in urine. The type of treatment is randomly assigned – in other words, there is no freedom to choose between the ones on offer.

Michael has taken part in the shockwave part of the study, with four treatments over 12 months. He also filled in a weekly survey of his general health, pain and use of pain killers.

He said: “In the past, it seemed to be that surgery was the only active option for kidney stones.  I was glad to be allocated to shockwave treatment as I had had this several years ago and knew that recovery time would be quicker. Monitoring my general health and pain through the survey were helpful too, although I would have liked this to be more condition-specific.

“Being involved in research should be routine – it’s just a part of life.”