More than three million National Health Service (NHS) patients in England have participated in research studies over the last six years, according to statistics released by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network. Over 600,000 patients took part in clinical research studies in 2013.
“Reaching this milestone is a great achievement,” said Jonathan Sheffield, Chief Executive Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network. “We know that research is something that patients really value and to recruit more than three million patients to studies in just six years shows that there is a real appetite from patients to get involved.”
Clinical research is a vital part of the work of the NHS, and a commitment to conduct, promote and use clinical research to improve patient care is part of the NHS England Constitution, he noted. Research provides evidence about “what works” so that treatments for patients can be improved, and there is some research evidence to show that patients do better in hospitals and surgeries that do research—even if they don’t actually take part in a study themselves.
Funded by the Department of Health, the NIHR Clinical Research Network is the research delivery arm of the NHS. It funds research nurses and health professionals to identify suitable patients and carry out the clinical activities required by the studies. It also provides funds to cover the cost of using scanners, x-rays, and other equipment for research purposes. Over 99% of NHS Trusts in England now carry out clinical research studies.
“Our vision is for participation in a clinical research study to be a treatment option for all patients, no matter where they are treated or what condition they have,” said Sheffield. “The Network reconfigured earlier this year to ensure that we are delivering studies across all therapy areas in the NHS throughout England. This will generate valuable opportunities for patients to take part in studies.”
The UK life sciences sector is one of the strongest and most productive in the world, in no small part due to an extensive program to engage the public in research which improves treatments and finds new cures that can make a difference to patients, according to Prof. Dame Sally C. Davies FRS FMedSci, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health. “I am delighted that every hospital in England has now joined in clinical research and hope that this increased access will further grow the UK’s reputation for research excellence,” she said.
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