Data on performance in initiating and delivering clinical research

The NIHR analyses data submitted each quarter to the Performance in Initiating and Delivering Clinical Research (PID) exercise to understand how quickly providers of NHS services are recruiting patients to clinical trials and how they are performing against their contractual requirements.

We analyse trends over time to understand performance of the NHS as a whole. In particular we look at:

  • how quickly participants are recruited once a study is set up (time between date site selected and date first participant recruited)
  • how many clinical trial participants are recruited to time and target.

We publish a comparison table showing the performance of all NHS organisations that submit to the PID exercise, and trend analyses showing performance across the country as a whole.

Providers of NHS services with NIHR contracts are required to publish their organisation’s performance data on their website.

Performance in initiating clinical research

This graph shows the trend of the time interval between the date that a site was selected for a clinical trial and the date that the first participant was recruited to the trial, for providers of NHS services subject to an NIHR contract. The number of providers whose data were analysed in a given quarterly submission is included in square brackets on the x axis beneath each quarter.

The first quarter reported is Q4 2016-17, which includes 1,777 trials at 214 sites. The final quarter reported is Q2 2020-21, which comprises 2857 trials at 215 sites. The number of trials reported has decreased since Q3 2019-20.

The average time between date site selected and date first patient recruited has remained largely consistent during the two year period shown in the graph, with a mean ranging from 66 days to 89 days. During the last two quarters reported, this average has decreased. Also shown are the deciles and quartiles for average recruitment times, to indicate the spread within the data. The longest recruitment time reported was 192 days in Q3 2019-20, and the shortest reported was 10 days in Q2 2020-21.

N.B. While submissions are quarterly, the scope of data submitted is a rolling 12 months of data.

DSS = Date Site Selected

FPR = First Patient Recruited

Absolute Data = All clinical trials submitted to the Clinical Trial Performance team

Performance in delivering clinical research

This graph shows the percentage of commercially sponsored clinical trials that met their target number of trial participants during the life of the study. The first quarter reported is Q4 2015-16, which includes 2140 trials with 52.9% of the targets being met. The last reported quarter is Q2 2020-21, which includes 1310 trials with 56.8% of targets being met.

Not all trials reported have an agreed target number of participants, so also shown are the percentage of targets met out of all trials reported. For Q4 2015-16 (the first reported quarter), this percentage is 45.3%, and for Q2 2020-21 (the last reported quarter) this is 54.0%.

The percentage of targets met (out of trials with a target reported) have remained largely consistent over time, with a high of 57.6% in Q4 2018-19 and a low of 52.4% in Q1 2016-17.

The number of trials reported has ranged from 1,823 in Q2 2017-18 to 2,293 in Q2 2016-17, but on average has remained largely consistent.

N.B. While submissions are quarterly, the scope of data submitted is a rolling 12 months of data.

'Agreed target' means there is both a target number of participants, and a target date to recruit.

We also publish a summary of annual data on the performance in initiating and delivering clinical research exercise, showing data by quarter each year for a number of indicators.

Comparable performance data

We collate and publish data from the more than 200 providers of NHS services that submit data on initiating and delivering clinical research.  

This data allows organisations to compare their performance against that of similarly sized providers and collaborate to improve. The data also helps drive increases in the number of patients that have the opportunity to participate in research and enhances the nation’s attractiveness as a host for research.

As of 2018, improvement in clinical trial performance and reducing site set up and participant recruitment time is no longer assessed with a 70 day benchmark. Instead, analyses focus on transparency, accuracy, and meeting sponsor expectations.

Data for each NHS provider

The Department of Health and Social Care requires providers of NHS services to publish on a quarterly basis data on:

  • initiation of clinical trials
  • recruitment to time and target for commercial contract clinical trials.

This information is published by each provider on their website.  We’ve collated in a table details of where each provider has published their data.

If you have any questions regarding the PID exercise, contact the NIHR Clinical Trial Performance team on