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National Patient Recruitment Centres

The NIHR national Patient Recruitment Centres (PRCs) are the first family of NIHR-funded research facilities that are 100% dedicated to delivering commercial research.

They are purpose-designed to increase the UK’s capacity to deliver large scale,  late-phase commercial clinical trials and to make it easier and quicker to deliver commercial research in our NHS.

By attracting more commercial research to the UK, the PRCs will also increase opportunities for NHS patients to access cutting edge treatment and therapies that are not yet widely available through the NHS.

View an accessible transcript for the 'Explaining the NIHR national Patient Recruitment Centres (PRCs)' animation.

These five purpose-designed national Patient Recruitment Centres (PRCs) have been established in the National Health Service (NHS) to:

  • Increase the UK’s capacity to deliver late-phase commercial clinical research
  • Make it easier and quicker to deliver commercial clinical research in the NHS
  • Increase opportunities for patients to benefit from early access to innovation
  • Provide a test bed for future innovation in clinical trial delivery.

They bring to life one of the Sector Deal 2 commitments contributing to the Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy which sets out a series of measures to strengthen the UK’s clinical research environment and improve the UK’s competitiveness in the global market.

With a special focus on common chronic conditions, these research facilities have a number of unique features which offer new ways to conduct late-phase, large-scale commercial research projects. Speed, efficiency, innovation and continuous improvement are key drivers of this new initiative which will help to maintain the UK’s position as a global destination for commercial clinical research.

The five new national Patient Recruitment Centres are based within the following NHS trusts:

On this page you will find further information and a number of resources describing how the national Patient Recruitment Centres will achieve these aims including an introductory videowebinar recording and an eBrochure. A plain text version of the eBrochure is also available.

You can also access resources from the official launch of the national Patient Recruitment Centres, which took place in November 2020:

Speed and consistency

An innovative and unique collaborative model has been purpose-designed for the PRCs to improve the speed and consistency with which commercial research is delivered.  This approach is facilitated by our remarkable team ethos which enables all five centres to work in a harmonised manner to deliver the following benefits:

  • Excellent communication

    A single  point of contact for initial enquiries, and clear points of contact and established lines of communication across all five centres.

  • Faster costing and contracting

    All five PRCs adhere to the new National Contract Value Review process which utilises standardised costing and contracting processes and requires just one costing negotiation for all five centres, with minimal local variation.

  • Streamlined study set-up

    If you’re working with more than one centre you can rest assured that we work in a collaborative way to ensure your study is set up effectively and efficiently at each location.

  • Consistent research delivery

    All five centres use shared standard operating procedures (SOPs) which  enable us to operate in an identical manner with the same level of dedicated facilities and staff at each location. This includes guaranteed access to NHS support services pharmacy, radiology and pathology services.

 Find out more about our new, standardised, national approach to costing and contracting for commercial contract research.

Capacity and capability

The PRCs were selected through an open national competition which required them to evidence a proven track record of delivering late-phase commercial research to time and target at scale.  Each centre is receiving £1,309,280 of pump-priming funding over three years to support the planning, set-up and delivery of more late-phase commercial research. This means you can expect:

  • Access to research active NHS clinicians

    We can connect you to NHS clinicians, across a wide range of therapeutic areas, to work as investigators for your study. Our investigators, many of which are world-renowned, are supported by our dedicated and highly-skilled research delivery staff.

  • Expert research delivery support

    Whether you opt to deliver your trial at one PRC, or all five, you will be working with a team with a wealth of commercial expertise and experience.  

  • Access to NHS support services

    Each PRC has guaranteed access to NHS services to support delivery of your trial including pharmacy, radiology and pathology.

  • A dedicated space for your study

    Each centre has on site facilities to store trial drugs and samples, including refrigerated and frozen storage, and operates tracking and storage systems to maintain sample integrity. We also provide secure study document storage, space for study monitoring and refreshments and parking for company representatives.

Reach and recruitment

We provide a range of opportunities for life sciences companies to access a broad cross section of the UK patient population.

  • Geographical reach

    Our five centres are geographically distributed throughout England and offer wide coverage of the country in terms of recruitment reach. This compliments and builds upon the existing research delivery infrastructure provided through the NIHR Clinical Research Network.

  • Beyond the hospital: Common chronic and long term conditions

    We specialise in recruiting non-hospitalised patients with common chronic conditions many of which are  managed in primary, community, social and other non-traditional care settings by their GP, pharmacist or other AHPs (Allied Health Professionals). For example: asthma, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), cardiovascular conditions, respiratory disease and type 2 diabetes.

  • Collaborating across the health community

    We engage these non-hospitalised patients by harnessing the recruitment potential of our regional health care community.  Through partnerships and collaborations we can extend our recruitment reach beyond the specialist clinics in secondary care to access to a wider cohort of patients.

  • Proactive and inclusive recruitment strategies

    We also adopt forward-thinking recruitment strategies to deliver results.  We do not rely on the right patient walking into the right clinic at the right time. Instead, where possible, we create health-related campaigns to reach out into the local community using proactive and inclusive techniques such as social media, local press and radio, and we’ve even been known to use adverts on pharmacy shelves.

  • Data driven delivery

    Add to this our unparalleled access to NHS data. Whether it's sense checking study feasibility, or analysing electronic health records to identify suitable participants, we work with our partners across the region to optimise the recruitment potential that NHS data presents.

  • Centre-specific USPs (unique selling points)

    Each centre provides distinct opportunities to access different demographics and areas of disease prevalence.  So although the PRCs are purpose-designed to deliver phase 3 and 4 commercial trials requiring a large volume of patients, we can also support smaller studies targeting specific therapeutic areas (dementia, dermatology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology).

  • Accessible for all

    We aim to remove all barriers to recruitment and retention by ensuring that our centres are accessible in terms of operation hours, travel links and mobility and disability considerations.

Innovate and improve

The national Patient Recruitment Centres unique collective model is an evolution of how we deliver commercial research  in the NHS environment. It builds upon the strengths of the NIHR Study Support Service provided by the NIHR Clinical Research Network and takes our collaborative culture, for which the UK is renowned, to the next  level.  This synergistic way of working seeks to develop and test new process models and work flows to improve the quality and efficiency of research delivery.

Then, where efficiencies and improvements are achieved, the same collective model supports the rapid dissemination and adoption of innovation, best practice and best-in-class commercial business processes across all five centres.

Agility is a key feature of our PRC model and having the ability to adapt quickly to new challenges and situations has never been more important than in the global COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Pioneering virtual trial capabilities

    PRC: Newcastle commenced delivery of one of the UK’s first fully virtual commercial interventional trials following  the RELIEVE IBS-D trial being paused during the pandemic. The virtual version of the trial is expected to recruit four times faster and this success is paving the way for new possibilities presented by virtual, hybrid and decentralised trials in the UK.
  • Covid19 vaccine trial delivery

    In October 2020 PRC: Blackpool became the first site in the world to open and recruit to a Novavax phase III trial and recruited 638 participants in total. PRC: Bradford recruited over 500 participants within three weeks to the same trial, and was asked to continue recruiting as a result, reaching a total of 726 participants. PRC: Exeter also exceeded expectations by recruiting 545 volunteers from the South West region, against a target of 500, and ahead of schedule. With their unique, proactive recruitment capabilities, our centres will continue to be integral to the UK’s vaccine offer throughout COVID-19 and beyond.

From piloting patient simulations to running real world research, we are keen to explore new opportunities.

Patient experience

The patient’s experience is our priority. We offer a personalised, concierge-style service to all participants throughout their research journey.

Each centre has a welcoming waiting area, especially for trial participants, with free refreshments and parking. We also ensure that our centres are accessible through appropriate hours of operation to maximise engagement with patients irrespective of their working hours, mobility, and more.

This video features some of the patients who have taken part in clinical research at our centres and here are some quotes from trial participants:

“I was welcomed by friendly and knowledgeable medical research staff. The purpose and nature of the study had already been explained in the emailed patient information sheet, but all the staff were pleased to be able to explain it all again and answer any questions that I had. It was very reassuring.”

Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial, October 2020, at PRC: Exeter. Read the full Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial case study.

“The team really put me at ease and have regularly checked up on me either by phone or through a web call. It has made the whole experience so much easier.

“The fact that it’s virtual means there is no need to travel far in order to speak with the staff, which is useful as a student. The delivery of the product was very quick and efficient.”

Relieve IBS-D virtual trial, September 2020, at PRC: Newcastle. Read the full Relieve IBS-D virtual trial case study.

Get in touch

Life science companies

If you are a life science company looking to run a study you can contact the national Patient Recruitment Centre Programme Office by email:

Patients, members of the public and health care professionals

Please visit the web pages of  your nearest national Patient Recruitment Centre (PRC) and contact the centre directly.

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