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Musculoskeletal Disorders specialty profile



Why you should deliver musculoskeletal disorders research in the UK

The Musculoskeletal Disorders Specialty has seen a steady increase in the number of patients, studies and NHS Trusts involved in clinical research in the last five years. The portfolio covers all the main sub-specialties, including orthopaedic surgery, arthritis, metabolic bone disease and musculoskeletal disorders, across both academic and industry-led research. We have the expertise and experience needed to deliver complex interventional trials to time and target, including the evaluation of new devices and techniques.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) provides researchers with the practical support they need to make research happen in the NHS and the wider health and social care environment. As well as providing research delivery staff, we also bring together communities of clinical practice to provide national networks of research expertise. The Musculoskeletal Disorders Specialty is one of 30 such communities and is made up of leading research-interested clinicians and practitioners at both national and local levels. Our job is to ensure that the musculoskeletal studies we support are delivered to time and target.


We have a strong UK wide network of clinical academics experienced in leading on and delivering research studies. Our collaborative working relationship with the relevant Royal Colleges, patient groups and charities ensures that we develop and deliver research on key areas of need in the musculoskeletal field.

Access to patients

Over 45,000 participants took part in 406 musculoskeletal studies on the NIHR CRN portfolio in 2018/19. Of these 406 studies open to recruitment, 141 were new studies supported by the NIHR CRN Musculoskeletal Disorders Specialty (47 commercial and 94 non-commercial).

The number of musculoskeletal studies continues to increase and 100 per cent of acute NHS trusts are now research-active and support recruitment.

Study delivery

The Musculoskeletal Specialty can provide sponsors with a variety of services to expedite study delivery, such as:

• Give early feedback during protocol development, giving insight into the NHS research landscape and current UK practice.

• Site intelligence to complement your own feasibility.

• Site identification to help you identify sites or add to those already selected.

We actively manage study performance through direct involvement of the National Specialty Leads, supported by the Local Specialty Leads, and the NIHR CRN portfolio team.

The Musculoskeletal Specialty achieved two global firsts in 2018/19.


The Musculoskeletal Specialty Group collaborates closely with a variety of partners, including professional bodies such as The British Orthopaedic Trainee Association, The British Rheumatology Trainees Association, The British Society for Rheumatology, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

We also liaise closely with charities, such as Arthritis UK and organizations such as ODEP (the Orthopaedic Device Evaluation Panel).

Case study: The Femoroacetabular Impingement Trial (FAIT)

The FAIT study was a randomised control trial that looked at the effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery compared to the non-operative treatment for hip
impingement. This is a common condition of the hip that leads to osteoarthritis and hip replacement in many individuals. The NIHR CRN supported the recruitment of 219 participants to time and target in seven sites across England. This study provided vital Level 1 evidence demonstrating the efficacy of this new surgical treatment for hip impingement. The trial began in 2011 and is now in long-term follow-up having reported on the primary outcome. FAIT was funded by the NIHR Musculoskeletal BRU / Arthritis Research UK Sports, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Centre of Excellence.

Find out more

Visit our musculoskeletal disorders specialty page or access our Study Support Service.