Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Video transcript | 2020/21: A year like no other


06 July 2021




The following is a transcript of a video message from Dr William van't Hoff.

2020/21: A year like no other

A message of thanks from Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive Officer, NIHR Clinical Research Network.


Last year was my first as Chief Executive for the Clinical Research Network and it's obviously been quite a year to start. It was also a year in which research truly impacted all our lives.

Today I’ll share some facts and figures that demonstrate the scale of our work, but first I really want to thank each and every one of you who has been involved in research in any way - public volunteers, health and care professionals, support staff and our partners across the health research system. Because of you, research is tackling the greatest health emergency of our lifetimes.

Delivering urgent public health research at pace and scale

In early 2020, the government asked us to prioritise recruitment to urgent public health studies, particularly vaccines, platform therapeutic studies and other key observational research.

Working with teams across the country, we supported 101 COVID-19 urgent public health studies, at a phenomenal pace and scale. The median time to set up the first site for these studies was just three working days.

These studies delivered vital evidence at incredible speed, enabling key government decisions and supporting the health and wealth of the nation at this time. Just over a year ago we had no treatments, little evidence and no vaccines to tackle COVID-19. Now we have plenty of all of that.

They're saving millions of lives across the world, and saving and protecting the NHS in this country.

More participants and research sites than ever before

Last year we supported a huge growth in the number of people and sites taking part in research.

More than 1.3 million participants took part in studies in England, more than ever before and nearly twice as many as in the previous year. Without people willing to take part in research, studies simply could not take place.

More than 20,000 participants have told us what it was like to be part of that research in our Patient Research Experience Survey. Their responses are helping us to learn how we can improve our service for them in the future.

It's our ability to support research across the whole country that is key to our success. For a third year, every NHS trust in England delivered research. Thank you to all the NHS staff who, despite the unimaginable situations you you have had to face, made time for research and gave patients the opportunity to take part, as well as helping the NHS find treatments and evidence to tackle COVID.

50% of GP practices recruited participants into studies, which is a good increase from 36 per cent in the previous year. The burden of disease and ill health, and often the first contact with health services, lie all Primary Care, so this is an important increase to see and a key direction for the future.

The unrivalled impact of our nationwide research delivery system has caught the eye not only of national media, but international media such as the New York Times and the Journal of the American Medical Association, and others as well, demonstrating the core linkage between the NIHR and the NHS

Non-COVID research

Our focus on COVID, coupled with NHS services responding to the pandemic, inevitably impacted our ability to deliver non-COVID research, and many studies had to pause. I really do acknowledge the impact of this for patients, researchers, the life sciences community and charities.

Some vital studies were able to be continued and later in the year many paused studies reopened, such that we were able to restart 81% of our commercial research studies that had been paused. Taken together, we were able to recruit over 325,000 participants to almost 3000 non-COVID research studies.

Now, fully restoring our research portfolio and building an even stronger and more resilient research delivery system is a real and current priority. The Government’s vision for “The future of UK clinical research delivery” aims to drive dramatic improvements and the contribution we can offer to this from the NIHR Clinical Research Network, will be the absolute focus for the coming year.

A big thank you

So many people - volunteers and professionals - were involved in research last year. Thank you all again for your tremendous efforts: collaborating, innovating and putting patients at the heart of everything.

The impact of the last year has been immense, but I hope you can take a moment to reflect and take pride in your vital, world-leading contribution to managing the pandemic and saving lives.

Thank you all, again, for everything you have done and continue to do.


Read more about the Clinical Research Network in 2020/21 (