The Trials Without Tribulations workshop at the Westmead Innovation Centre on September 15 was attended by a capacity audience of 160 people after being significantly oversubscribed.

Attendee Frances Daley, who is a project manager with an osteoarthritis clinical research group at the University of Sydney, said there was “a real buzz about the day.”

“It was really well organised, and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with colleagues new and old around common concerns in the field of clinical trials,” she said. “The sessions on audit and more diverse participants in clinical trials were particularly relevant and helpful to me.”

The workshop mixed presentations with group activities, and most of the program was delivered by senior staff from across Sydney Health Partners' organisations.

Suchit Handa from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care gave the opening address on initial learnings from the roll-out of the National Clinical Trials Accreditation Framework.

Other sessions included the need to plan and prepare for external audits, budgeting for industry-sponsored studies and strategies for getting paid for common hidden costs and improving the recruitment of participants from more diverse backgrounds.

During a closing summation, Professor Manuela Ferreira from the Kolling Institute described the workshop as a very valuable opportunity for information exchange.

“Clinical trials staff rarely get the opportunity to compare notes with people doing the same or similar jobs elsewhere,” she said. “The main thing we heard across the day was the need for more consistency – in processes and procedures across clinical trials sites.”

The Clinical Research Manager at Western Sydney Local Health District, Sharon Lee, says feedback from her colleagues who attended the event has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“My staff thought it was great to have clinical trials people from the University of Sydney and the local health districts all in one place,” she said. “And they were happy to be involved in the group work because they felt they were contributing to something that would be useful for everyone.”

Research Development Manager at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Dr Helen Goldsmith, thinks the Trials Without Tribulations workshop revealed an unmet need for professional networking and knowledge exchange.

“We are all busy working within our silos and these frontline clinical trials staff don’t often get opportunities to go to conferences like researchers do,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why it was so well attended.”

Amongst the most popular sessions of the day was a panel discussion on career progression in clinical trials.

Workshop convenor and Sydney Health Partners Research Director, Associate Professor Angela Todd, says planning the workshop revealed a big gap in professional education and training for clinical trials staff.

“It became apparent that there is little structured training for study coordinators, and the little that exists is often expensive,” she said.

“Together the members of Sydney Health Partners have raised an issue that has been bubbling below the surface.”

“Better support for the professional developmental of trials staff is another important way to improve clinical trials and the prospects of translating research into clinical practice.”