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Blog written by Dr Sam Hodgson (GP trainee, ACF and PACT committee member, Southampton) and Dr Polly Duncan (GP, Senior Research Fellow and Chair of PACT, Bristol)


Marta Lewandowska, a deputy practice manager from Leicester delivered the winning pitch in the Primary Care Academic Collaborative (PACT) Dragons’ Den at the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) ‘Fresh Approach to General Practice’ conference in February.

I was so happy to have the opportunity to take part in this exciting process. I really enjoyed it from start to finish. I was so happy to win. Now I can’t wait to get to work on this with the PACT team.”
Ms Lewandowska

The Primary Care Academic Collaborative (PACT) is a UK-wide initiative that aims to provide more opportunities for people working in general practice to get involved in research.  The PACT model makes use of a wide network of volunteer members, including GP trainees, GPs, pharmacists and nurses, each of whom plays a small part in a research project, for example by collecting and analysing data within their practice.  At a practice level, the data can be used to find areas for improving patient care and, by combining data from lots of practices, members can do exciting research that can make a real difference to patients.

Part of PACT’s grassroots-led commitment includes ensuring that the research reflects the ideas and priorities of its members. Last autumn, PACT launched a ‘Dragons’ Den’ call for research ideas from frontline general practice staff. They were keen to hear ideas from people with little or no research experience.  They received 28 applications from a wide range of people working in general practice. A shortlist of four finalists was selected through scoring ideas based on originality, potential impact to patients, clarity, and feasibility.

The finalists were invited to pitch their proposals to a panel of expert ‘Dragons’ at the RCGP conference who quizzed them on their idea. The finalists were:

  • Markus Chan, a GP trainee, who suggested a project looking at high intensity service users in primary care using in-practice data;
  • Sarah Jones, a pharmacist, who proposed a project examining antidepressant cessation in primary care by examining consultation records;
  • Marta Lewandowska, a deputy practice manager, who pitched a questionnaire-based project aiming to understand why patients don’t take medications prescribed for long-term conditions like asthma or diabetes, which would be texted out to patients;
  • Fola Yusuff, a GP with an extended role in allergy, who outlined a research idea describing appropriateness of allergy testing in primary care.

The four finalists received support to develop their ideas from PACT mentors (junior researchers from the PACT committee) and topic experts (senior academics with expertise relevant to each finalist’s idea).  Panellists who selected the winning pitch were: Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham (Keele University), Professor Joanne Reeve (Hull-York Medical School), Dr Nick Thomas (RCGP Research lead), and Dr Polly Duncan, GP, researcher and Chair of PACT (Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol).

The Dragons’ Den was broadcast at the RCGP Conference in February, and will soon be available to view on the PACT website.

Polly Duncan said: "We were really impressed by the quality of the applications and delighted that lots of different types of people applied – from GP trainees, to pharmacists, to practice managers. We’re looking forward to working with Marta to make her project a reality.”

Ms Lewandowska will now work with the PACT committee to turn her idea from a pitch into a real-world project.

Anyone can sign up to take part in Marta’s project by becoming a member of PACT via the PACT website, and signing up to the PACT newsletter. As well as keeping updated with developments on Marta’s and other projects, PACT members will be the first to hear about opportunities for the next Dragons’.


With thanks to NIHR School for Primary Care Research for funding the PACT Dragons’ Den, to the West of England Clinical Research Network for supporting the Chair and Vice Chair of PACT as Early Career Researchers, to our friendly dragons and to the Society for Academic Primary Care for supporting PACT’s development.