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Department for Health and Social Care announces new NIHR Research Delivery Network

Published: 14 November 2023

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has today announced that a new NIHR Research Delivery Network (RDN) will commence in 2024. It will support the successful delivery of health and social care research in England.

Support for research delivery will include studies funded by government, industry, and charity partners. It will ensure a thriving and vibrant portfolio of studies so that as many patients as possible have opportunities to take part.

The government's ambitious strategy is to make the UK the best place in the world for commercial companies to bring new treatments and technologies. The review into commercial clinical trials by Lord O’Shaughnessy in May 2023 set out a clear blueprint for how the UK can return to its global leadership role. With this in mind, the RDN will ensure a strong and seamless connection between industry and the NHS.

After an open competition, the University of Leeds will be the supplier of the NIHR Research Delivery Network Coordinating Centre (RDNCC). The contract will run until 31 March 2029. They will be joined by 12 new Regional Research Delivery Networks (RRDNs). These will be hosted by NHS Organisations the length and breadth of the country. The Regional RDN contracts will begin on 1 October 2024.

Together, they will form the NIHR Research Delivery Network. This will operate as a single organisation across England. It has a joint leadership function that will balance regional context, expertise and leadership, with national co-ordination and strategy, involving DHSC policymakers.

The new NIHR RDN will support the country’s world-class research system to deliver high quality research that enables the best care for patients and the public. It will work across the health and care system. It will have staff in all health and care settings, to support the effective and efficient initiation and delivery of research. This will benefit people receiving care now and in the future. It will support the NHS and care services and generate benefits for the economy of the UK.

The NIHR RDN is new, responding to the needs of the health and care research system of the present day. But it will build on the notable successes of the NIHR CRN. The CRN supported a transformation in the strength of England’s research delivery system, promoted the successful delivery of studies and underpinned the dramatic expansion of health research participation.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR said:

“The new NIHR Research Delivery Network is designed to provide an enhanced, consistent service for all those involved in research delivery. It includes part of a system wide drive to increase commercial clinical trials, ensuring we work more effectively than ever with the life sciences industry to deliver the best, most cutting-edge health and care research for the British public, alongside research funded by the government and charities.”

“Access to research opportunities in under-served regions is crucial and the new NIHR RDN will be pivotal in supporting new treatment and models of care to communities with major health and care needs. It will build capacity to extend research delivery in primary, community and social care settings to make it easier for patients to get access to cutting-edge treatment, through research.

“The plans and ambitions we have for the RDN have evolved from the excellent work of the Clinical Research Network over the last nine years. Its many dedicated staff have worked incredibly hard to support England to deliver some of the best health and care research during this time. Without their passion and determination, so much of the world-leading research produced in this country during the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible.”

Professor Mark Kearney, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Leeds said:

“We are delighted to host the new NIHR Research Delivery Network. UK health and care research is already recognised as being world leading.

"The University of Leeds, as part of the Research Delivery Network Coordinating Centre, is poised and eager to work with the health and care system to make a step change in how we deliver this research.

"We will harness the talent of our NHS staff and generosity of the population to progress new ways of working to support the delivery of research to achieve our ambitions to improve the health and wealth all our communities.”

Lindsey Hughes, Director of Research, NHS England said:

“NHS England looks forward to working with the new NIHR Research Delivery Network Coordinating Centre and the 12 Regional Research Delivery Networks (RRDNs), building on the successful partnership we have established with the current NIHR Clinical Research Network.

"The RRDNs map to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) footprints, making it easier for ICS research leaders to engage with the support available to them. This will further enable the country’s world-class research system to deliver high quality research that enables the best care for patients and the public.”

Designed for the future

In planning the new NIHR RDN, we listened carefully to stakeholders across the research system. This was to ensure the RDN is strengthened to provide a consistent, customer focussed approach. One that is fit for the future needs of the system.

The NIHR RDN will adapt to the changing domestic and global environment for:

  • Health and care
  • Life sciences
  • Advancements in research design and delivery

It will focus on continuous improvement in services and outcomes. It will drive innovation across the system, and play a full and active role in implementing government policy.

This includes:

  • The Life Sciences Vision
  • Policy for life sciences R&D
  • The UK Recovery, Resilience and Growth programme
  • The Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review into commercial clinical trials in the UK

Enabling access to improve the health and wealth of the nation

The evolution of the CRN into the RDN will help meet the current and future needs of the country for increased capacity and capability within the research system for the health and the wealth of the nation.

The RDN will deliver an enhanced study support service. This will enable improved access to research infrastructure for the life sciences industry and researchers. The expertise and site-level intelligence of staff from Regional RDNs will come together with the national oversight and leadership of the RDN Coordinating Centre to provide a more effective end-to-end service for customers.

The new RDN, working with the wider system, will enhance equality of opportunity for people to get involved in research. No matter who they are or which part of the country they reside. It will enable research activity to follow patient and service user need. It will ensure research is conducted in communities living with the greatest disease burden. It will collaborate with patients, carers and the public, investigators and study sites.

Full list of RRDNs and their host institutions

North East and Yorkshire

  • North East and North Cumbria - hosted by The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Yorkshire and Humber - hosted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

North West

  • North West - hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust


  • East Midlands - hosted by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
  • West Midlands - hosted by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust

East of England

  • East of England - hosted by Norfolk and Norwich University NHS Foundation Trust


  • North London - hosted by Barts Health NHS Trust
  • South London - hosted by Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

South East

  • South Central - hosted by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • South East - hosted by Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust

South West

  • South West Central - hosted by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
  • South West Peninsula - hosted by Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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