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NIHR annual statistics highlight sustained public enthusiasm for participating in research

Published: 06 July 2022

The latest NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) annual statistics show research participation levels remain remarkably high, following an unprecedented period in research history.

Following an incredibly busy year for NIHR research in 2020/21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public has continued to support vital research in phenomenal numbers between April 2021 and March 2022. Over this period, 1,289,937 participants took part in over 4,600 portfolio studies in England. 

Strengthening partnerships across the NHS

Offering participation opportunities and recruiting volunteers across the country is vital to the CRN’s mission of increasing diversity in research studies and improving health outcomes in under-served communities. In 2021/22, every NHS trust across England once again recruited participants to take part in clinical research studies.

51% of GP practices also recruited participants to NIHR CRN supported studies, providing further opportunities to take part in research at the first point of care. This is the highest number ever, and paves the way to grow primary care research even further in the future.

Leading the world with COVID-19 research

The CRN continued to play a vital role in delivering COVID-19 research throughout 2021/22. 772,359 participants across the UK took part in a total of 308 COVID-19 studies - 700,602 of these were recruited in England. These included pivotal vaccine trials and innovative studies investigating COVID-19 treatments in community and hospital settings.

One of the major COVID-19 study successes was the PANORAMIC antiviral treatment trial, which with NIHR CRN support has become the UK’s fastest recruiting primary care interventional trial. Over 25,000 participants enrolled in PANORAMIC within 5 months, and it is also currently the largest trial of community-based treatment for COVID-19 anywhere in the world.

Collaborating with the life sciences industry

28,193 of participants took part in commercial studies sponsored by the life sciences industry, demonstrating the CRN’s commitment to expanding collaboration with professionals and participants in this field.

Participants’ experience of taking part in research

Each year, the CRN creates a Participant Research Experience Survey, and encourages participants to feed back their experiences of taking part in research.

In 2021/22, a total of 25,711 research participants completed the NIHR CRN’s Participant Research Experience Survey (against a target of 12,000 responses). A detailed report will be published later in the year, with responses helping us learn what we can improve for the future.

Looking to the future

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

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic and as we support the recovery of the UK research portfolio, our roles and achievements for NIHR remain vital. I want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who’s been involved in the incredible successes over the last year. By taking part, shaping or delivering this research you have helped develop the evidence and treatments that will benefit us all.

“This year we look forward to further building on these successes - playing our role contributing to the system-wide Research Reset programme, increasing our research in primary care and community settings, and further ensuring our research meets the needs of all our communities, across the country, so we can improve health, care and quality of life for everyone.”

About the NIHR Clinical Research Network annual statistics

The NIHR Clinical Research Network’s annual research statistics provide the most comprehensive data around the state of clinical research across the country. These data are from studies on the NIHR CRN portfolio, which cover the bulk of clinical research studies delivered in England.

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