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Case study: Setting straight six myths about clinical research

More information on our Your Path in Research campaign is available on the NIHR website.

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We help debunk some common misconceptions about clinical research and explain how it's only by keeping up to date on better treatments and care and improving diagnosis and prevention that we can improve patient care.

1. Research is experimentation on patients

Clinical research is finding out what works best in patient care in specific areas through a ‘study’. A study aims to answer a question, in this case about patient care, using a carefully designed method.
Patients participate in studies through carefully regulated  informed consent procedures.
A  2018 survey of 8,500 patient research participants showed that 90% had a good experience of being on a study and had volunteered to take part because of the importance of improving knowledge and treatments.


2. Research in the NHS is a luxury, not a priority

Everyone providing care in the NHS uses research. But not everyone is aware of it. The core of all good training is that it is based on evidence which can be trusted.


3. Research costs the NHS and takes away resources from patient care

A growing body of evidence shows that trusts with high levels of clinical research activity have better patient outcomes (e.g. lower mortality rates).
Research in the NHS is funded through a range of public, charity or commercial organisations, not by the NHS itself. In the NHS research is effectively cost neutral or even revenue producing.


4. There is no compulsion in policy to do research in the NHS.

The CQC now has a remit to assess how trusts are supporting and using clinical research to improve patient care. Research also has a strong profile in the NHS Long Term Plan.


5. Research happens in lab, not the NHS

The majority of clinical research activity in the UK takes place in the NHS.  Over 850,000 people participated in NHS related research during 2018/19. Research can help you identify effective and cost efficient treatments, processes and systems


6. Research is funded by commercial organisations whose only interest is profits.

The vast majority of new medicines and medical devices in the last 50 years have been made possible from research funded by companies which have a high level of revenue. This would not have been affordable through public funds alone. Research in the UK NHS is carefully regulated to focus on patient benefit and there are many examples now of some excellent jointly funded studies between commercial, charity and public sources where the benefits are clear.


More information about the NIHR's Your Path in Research campaign is available online.