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New accredited register marks significant step forward for Clinical Research Practitioner profession

Published: 29 June 2021

The NIHR has today announced the launch of a new UK-wide professional accreditation scheme for Clinical Research Practitioners (CRPs) as part of efforts to double the number of this important workforce over the next few years.

CRP is an umbrella title used for a family of roles in research delivery that have a patient-facing element and where the post holder isn’t currently registered to a healthcare profession. The accreditation scheme - delivered in partnership with the Academy for Healthcare Science Accredited Registers Programme and recognised by the Professional Standards Authority - is a significant step forward for the development of the profession and acknowledges their vital role within the UK research delivery workforce.

Drawn from a diverse range of graduates and postgraduates working in fields such as biomedicine and psychology, they bring a wealth of knowledge and hold extensive research expertise. Just under 1,000 practitioners working across the UK research landscape are already coming forward to apply for professional registration as a CRP. In England, CRP-eligible roles make up around 25% of the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s funded workforce, working alongside 5,000 research nurses to deliver the safe, ethical and high quality clinical research care that is transforming patient care and treatment. Their importance has been made especially clear during the COVID pandemic, where CRPs helped recruit 1,266,051 study participants across 205 NIHR-delivered coronavirus research studies conducted within the NHS to date.

The introduction of the register will improve professional identity, recognise the vital role CRPs play in research delivery, and provide a clear path for the career development of CRPs. The standards set are similar to the high levels found in statutory regulation for nursing and other allied health professions. A successful application to the accredited register demonstrates that practitioners meet a defined set of standards and work within an agreed scope of practice.

As well as providing well-deserved professional support to existing CRPs, it is hoped that many more potential applicants will apply, and the number of professionally registered CRPs will quickly increase to 2,000 within the next two years.

Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said:

“I am really pleased with the progress made by the NIHR to nurture and develop the growing community of CRPs. The new accredited register establishes the professional identity of CRPs and recognises the vital role they play in research delivery. The growth of the CRP profession is critical to the development of a vibrant future UK research workforce. It reinforces NIHR's vision to create a clinical research environment which empowers everyone across the health service to participate in delivering research. I hope CRPs are empowered by this news and I encourage them to join the register and take the next step in their research career.”

Professor Ruth Endacott, NIHR Director of Nursing & Midwifery, said:

“In common with most of healthcare, we need a team of people from different professional backgrounds with complementary skills to deliver research studies. CRPs are a great asset to research teams and I'm delighted that accredited registration will provide formal recognition, and a career pathway, for our CRP colleagues. “

The first step towards accreditation for CRPs is to join the growing number listed on the CRP Directory,  a community of Clinical Research Practitioners  all playing a part in shaping their professional identity and practice. Developed by the NIHR in collaboration with the Academy for Healthcare Science, those listed can be connected with fellow CRPs, have access to the relevant learning resources, and stay updated on the accredited registration process.

This activity has been undertaken by NIHR as part of the UK-wide Clinical Research Recovery Resilience and Growth (RRG) programme, which brings together partners from across academia, government, the NHS, regulators, medical research charities, industry, patients and the public. This plan is the first step towards the bold and ambitious vision to create a patient-centred, pro-innovation and data-enabled clinical research environment, which empowers everyone across the health service to participate in delivering research.

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