The UK government has set out its vision to make the country a world-leader in designing and delivering clinical research.
It aims to use the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to create a patient-centred, pro-innovation, and digitally-enabled research environment that is more diverse and accessible, and to embed research in the NHS.
The Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery guidance, developed by the UK government and devolved administrations, sets out how it aims to deliver faster, more efficient, and more innovative research, including the streamlining of costing, contracting, and approvals processes to the HRA’s rapid ethics review pilot, which aims to halve the time to provide a final opinion for research applications.
It will lead to making participation in research more accessible, the increase of diversity, and will work with Centres of Excellence that will allow more support for research in more diverse and underserved communities.
The NHS will also be encouraged to put delivery of research at its heart, building a culture across the NHS and all health and care settings that is positive about research, where all staff feel empowered and supported to take part in clinical research delivery as part of their job.
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Clinical research is the backbone of healthcare – it is the way we improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and improves the lives of patients across the country. This has never been more true than in our response to the pandemic.
“By taking advantage of our world-renowned research expertise, and a strong partnership between business, academia, the NHS, and government, we are determined to make the UK the best possible place to carry out clinical research that will improve the health of people here and across the world. Ground-breaking technologies, data and analytics will transform healthcare and save lives. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and make this vision a reality.”
Rapid delivery of clinical trials, such as RECOVERY, have shown how the UK can set up trials in record time without any loss of rigour. The plan aims to strengthen the research delivery that enabled the UK to identify the first proven treatment for COVID-19, dexamethasone, which has cut mortality rates by as much as one-third in COVID-19 patients needing ventilation and is estimated to have saved up to 27,000 lives in the UK and hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. The UK’s research has also made a leading contribution to the international vaccine effort – shining a light on the pathway back to normality.
Important lessons have also been learned from the clinical trials for COVID-19, which have shown the UK’s ability to set up trials in record time, and from the pandemic about where the UK can improve, such as empowering healthcare and research workers and innovative trial design and delivery.
Lord Bethell, Minister for Innovation, said: “We are rapidly approaching a step change in global healthcare, with new technologies and treatments transforming the way we diagnose, treat, and prevent illness. We need to act now to position the UK at the forefront of this healthcare revolution. Our vision sets out how we will achieve a clinical research delivery system in the UK which is innovative, delivers for all research sponsors and patients and is resilient in the face of future healthcare crises.”
The research will be enabled by data and digital tools, ensuring the UK has the most advanced and data-enabled clinical research environment in the world, building on unique data assets to improve health and care.
Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “Clinical research is a core part of an innovative and forward-thinking health and care system. Our learning from the pandemic shows that embedding clinical research within the NHS is achievable and delivers both for patients as well as for the NHS. Through implementation of this vision, more healthcare professionals will be able to become involved in research, improving care, and benefiting patients across the country.”