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Patient participation increased drastically in England in 2010.
The number of patients participating in clinical research in the state healthcare sector, the National Health Service (NHS), took a significant leap forward in England during 2010, according to new data released by the National Institute for Clinical Research's (NIHR) Clinical Research Network.
The figures show that more than 500,000 people participated in NIHR Clinical Research Network studies last year, compared with 300,000 in 2009. The institute was set up by the Department of Health to reduce the red tape around setting up clinical studies. It also aims to identify patients to participate in studies and to cover additional costs such as research nurses and imaging examinations so that research activities do not drain NHS resources.
"We are working to raise the level of patient awareness about clinical studies, so that people start to ask their doctor about participating in a research study as part of their care," noted Jonathan Sheffield, MD, Chief Executive of the NIHR's Clinical Research Network. "Today's figures suggest that all of this activity is gathering momentum."
In the past, research activity was focused on the big teaching hospitals, but by supporting research posts and costs in a wider range of hospitals, it has been possible to cast the net wider, and more patients now have access to clinical studies, he said.
Participation in clinical research is written into the NHS constitution and operating framework, but Sheffield thinks that more groundwork is needed to ensure that all parts of the NHS embrace the research culture.
"The NHS has been asked to make efficiency savings over the next four years. That means understanding which treatments work best for patients, so we can focus resources in these areas," he added. "We need the level of research activity to continue to grow, so we can determine the very best healthcare solutions, and help the NHS to shape its service for the future."
Sheffield took up his current post on October 1, 2010, having previously served on the institute's advisory board, which works with the Department of Health on the strategic development of the NIHR. He was formerly medical director at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. He is also a member of the Department of Health Cancer Task Force, and was chair of the Regional Modernization Cancer Task Force.