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21.10.15

Clinical research activity in NHS at all-time high

The amount of clinical research activity across the NHS in England is at an all-time high, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network has revealed.

The body’s 2014-15 league table, published today (21 October), showed that more trusts are undertaking research studies than ever before, and more people are participating in them.

The table, now in its fifth year, provides a picture of how much clinical research is happening across the NHS, from which doctors gather evidence about new treatments in order to improve patient care.

Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, said: “Yet again our world-class NIHR infrastructure has shown that it continues to grow and is providing exciting research projects to benefit our health service.

“High quality research is vital to bring new treatments to patients as quickly as possible and the clinical research network is proving to be a real success in driving forward this essential work.”

Dr Jonathan Sheffield, the NIHR’s chief executive officer, added that, for the third consecutive year, more than 600,000 people took part in clinical research in England – a “fantastic achievement”.

“As we progress, the way we are undertaking clinical research trials will change too. With the onset of personalised medicine, we are seeing increasingly complicated trials which will, through use of high quality clinical and genetic data, clearly define patients who will respond to therapy.

“Therefore fewer patients will need to be recruited to the treatment arm but many more patients will be needed to be involved and screened to identify the right people for the trial.

“Looking ahead, we will see an increasing number of trials with fewer patients needed in the trial to provide evidence of efficiency and effect.”

Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS FT topped the table for the fourth consecutive year with 486 studies, an increase of seven compared to last year. Almost 12,500 patients had been recruited to participate in research.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS FT and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS FT followed closely behind, making the trusts the top three providers undertaking research. Although all three are acute units, the table also includes mental health and care trusts, some of which feature amongst the top 10 researchers – a positive change from the historically lower research activity within these environments.

University College London Hospitals NHS FT was also recognised for the largest increase in research activity – an increase of 52 studies compared to 2013-14. Other acute foundation trusts in Southampton and London showed a marked increase in research, ranging from 35 to 40 more studies than last year.

George Freeman MP, life sciences minister, also praised the fact that life science research activity is growing across the state services.

“It is only through the fantastic work that the NHIR does that we can help develop exciting new 21st century cutting-edge treatments and technologies,” he continued, adding that growing work play a major role in attracting investment in the UK.

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