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The results of a new survey, published May 21, have shown that most people are not aware that research is a core part of the work of the NHS. The survey raises concerns that patients could be missing out on opportunities to take part in potentially beneficial clinical trials as a result.
Research studies are the way that healthcare professionals gather robust evidence about what works best, in order to improve treatments for patients now and for the future.
The NHS Constitution states that the NHS will do all it can to ensure that patients are made aware of research opportunities relevant to them. However, a new survey (conducted by One Poll on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network) has found that:
. Only 21% of people surveyed were aware that carrying out research is a key activity for the NHS, yet,
. 82% of people surveyed said it is important for the NHS to offer opportunities to take part in healthcare research
. Less than seven percent of people surveyed said they would never take part in a clinical research study.
These figures on consumer attitudes are in stark contrast to an earlier survey of healthcare professionals, carried out by Health Service Journal Magazine last year, again on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network. In this survey, 61% of healthcare respondents said that research was peripheral in their NHS Trust, with only 38% agreeing that research is embedded in planning and performance at board level.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, said:
"Research is core business for the NHS, so we need to encourage patients to be more demanding of their doctors and NHS institutions when it comes to offering the chance to take part in research activity. We also need to do everything we can to encourage a research culture at all levels in the NHS. It is high time that NHS Trust boards put research on their radar."
Whilst the surveys show that more work is required to build the profile of research activity in the NHS, there has been significant progress in recent years. The National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network recruited more than half a million NHS patient volunteers into research studies last year, and this number continues to increase.
The organisation is also sponsoring an award for NHS Trusts who have made the most progress in embracing research at an institutional level.
Dr Jonathan Sheffield said, "Research is not just an activity for the big teaching hospitals. We need district hospitals and GP surgeries to rise to the challenge. Many have already started to do so, but it's important that it keeps progressing. With an ageing population, the demands on our health service just continue to grow. Research is the best way we have to work out the most effective and efficient ways to meet patients needs. We need to take note of this survey, and keep pushing for research to have the profile it deserveswithdoctors and their patients."