The UK Government and devolved administrations released The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery: implementation plan on Wednesday. This will include an investment of more than £64m - from research funders - to back the super-charged clinical research system, expected to benefit patients.
It sets out the first year of activities to ensure research has a better impact on health outcomes, as well as allowing more patients to be involved in, and benefit from research relevant to them.
Some of the steps laid out in the plan include working towards more effective and efficient research, and embedding research within the NHS to increase the capability with more virtual and remote trials in the UK. It hopes to provide additional capacity for late-stage commercial research, by expanding Patient Recruitment Centres.
This follows on from the Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery report, published in March 2021. It also outlines plans for UK clinical research to help address health inequalities by increasing diversity and participation in research, through working with partners such as the Centre for BME Health in Leicester.
The ambitions hope to develop systems and processes that enable health research to be directed to and supported within areas and communities, traditionally under-served by research.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Clinical research has been vital in our fight against Covid-19 and has saved thousands of lives. Working with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments, our ambitious UK-wide vision for the future of clinical research delivery is essential if we are to build on this exciting and lifesaving momentum.
“We are making this vision a reality by continuing to work closely with our partners across the UK, the NHS, regulators, industry and medical research sector. We will create a more innovative, resilient and patient-centred clinical research system.”
The implementation plan is the first step towards taking action on the targets in the March report. Over the next few months, it aims to develop and trial new Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, make UK clinical research delivery easier through more rapid ethics reviews, and faster approval processes. It also aims to digitise the clinical research process, enabling researchers to find patients, offer them places in trials, and monitor health outcomes.
The collaborative approach included working with the Clinical Research Recovery, Resilience and Growth programme – which includes representatives from the NHS, regulators, the NIHR, and medical research charities.
Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the vital link between clinical research and better healthcare. Working in partnership with the NHS throughout the country, we were able to support research that improved evidence, saved lives and enabled rapid vaccine development. Now we can build on that collaboration with partners from across the sector, to deliver the UK’s ambitious vision for clinical research delivery.
“This will enable more healthcare professionals to be involved in research, ultimately benefiting patients across the country.”
Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Care, for the Welsh Government, said: “Wales has great opportunities for clinical research and we are fully committed to playing our part in making the UK clinical research system one of the best, if not the best, in the world. The plan launched is a key stepping stone to achieve our collective ambitions. I am delighted to see the strong alignment to our ‘A Healthier Wales’ strategy, in which individuals are at the heart of transformation and modernisation of health and care services, and where research is embedded in high quality care.”
Humza Yousaf, Health Secretary, for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland has a long history of pioneering health research, and through NHS Research Scotland and the Chief Scientist Office of Scottish Government, we are committed to working with our partners across the UK to create a more innovative and resilient research environment that will ultimately improve patients’ lives.
“The plan we have launched recognises the importance of collaboration and cross border working, ensuring the UK is a cohesive and streamlined location to attract, and undertake, research in a global economy.”
Robin Swann, Health Minister, for Northern Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland recognises the value of a UK-wide approach to clinical research and we are committed to participation in the delivery of this vision. We are already fully involved in many of the UK-wide workstreams, working in partnership towards collective and compatible solutions to create a clinical research ecosystem which benefits all patients across the UK.”