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UK gov calls for more NHS involvement in clinical research

The UK government is pushing for National Health Service (NHS) to be more involved in clinical research.

During a keynote speech at the Arena International Outsourcing Clinical Trials UK and Ireland 2023 Conference in London, professor Lucy Chappell, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Health and Social Cares, said there needs to be a more proactive approach from the NHS to provide research to patients as part of the UK Clinical Trials Recovery, Resilience and Growth (RRG) programme.

Trial participation declined but is now growing

UK Government data shows that the number of participants in commercial research has substantially declined from more than 50,000 patients in 2017 to 2018 to just over 28,000 in 2021 to 2022.

Chappell said that numbers are growing again but in a further bid to improve the research efforts in the country, there are hopes that those in the NHS can provide more treatment options to patients through clinical trials, regardless of whether the doctor is directly involved in the research.

Chappell said: “You’ve got three options, you can be research aware, you can be research active or you can be a research leader but the option that isn’t on the table is to be a research blocker. You can’t stop it from happening. If we brought everyone to even the first level of instruction where they signpost patients to that research, is that so hard?”

Chappell added that not only will involvement in clinical research improve the country’s contributions to the sector but also provide a better patient outcome.

She added: “The potential is there are better patient outcomes, better for the workforce, better for the system. Who wouldn’t want to have research embedded in their practice? And how do we systematically remove those barriers?”

Questions raised about feasibility

Questions were raised about both the availability of research in care home facilities and the feasibility of conducting research in the NHS given the current strain on doctors but Chappell said that the research model will run alongside the NHS long-term health plan to ensure that the ability to contribute to research is available for everyone.

“My vision is health and care research and I think we are only at the foothills of research in the local authority, public health, and care homes,” Chappell concluded.

“I’m quite clear that is where we are going to see new advances.”

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