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NIHR plays key role in ambitious cross-sector plan for the future of clinical research delivery in the UK

The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery. Saving and Improving Lives.

Published: 23 June 2021

Following publication of the ‘Saving and improving lives: the future of UK clinical research delivery’ vision in March, the UK government and devolved administrations today set out the first phase of activity.

NIHR has a key role to play in delivering this ambitious plan, working with the devolved administrations, the NHS, regulators, medical research charities and the life sciences industry.

The 2021-22 plan includes:

  • Driving the recovery of the UK’s clinical research portfolio, while continuing to develop and trial new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
  • Making UK clinical research delivery easier through more rapid research ethics reviews and faster approval processes.
  • Boosting clinical research capacity with more virtual and remote trials. 
  • Increasing diversity and participation in research in areas and communities traditionally under-served by research.
  • Digitising the clinical research process to make it faster and cheaper for researchers to find patients, offer them places in trials and monitor health outcomes.
  • Expanding flexible workforce and delivery models, including increasing capacity for research in primary and community care.

Publication of the plan, which is backed by £64m in government funding, follows on from the historic G7 Health Ministers’ agreement to create a new Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter setting out shared principles to accelerate the speed with which clinical trials generate robust evidence and how their findings can be implemented in this and future pandemics.

Whilst the UK’s research response to the pandemic demonstrated just what could be achieved by innovative, flexible and coordinated working, the country’s ability to deliver clinical research in other areas of health and disease was inevitably impacted. 

As part of the plan, NIHR is already implementing a managed recovery process, which is now underway for both commercial and non-commercial clinical research, working with industry, charities and other research funders, to restore the delivery of the UK’s broad and diverse research portfolio. Find out more about how we are managing research recovery

In addition to an immediate focus on the managed recovery of research, the implementation plan is built around seven key areas of action:

  • Improving the speed and efficiency of study set-up
  • Building upon digital platforms to deliver clinical research
  • Increasing the use of innovative research designs
  • Aligning our research programmes and processes with the needs of the UK health and care systems
  • Improving visibility and making research matter to the NHS
  • Making research more diverse and more relevant to the whole of the UK
  • Strengthening public, patient and service user involvement in research.

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

“The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the vital link between clinical research and better healthcare. Working in partnership with the NHS throughout the country, we were able to support research that improved evidence, saved lives and enabled rapid vaccine development. Now we can build on that collaboration with partners from across the sector, to deliver the UK’s ambitious vision for clinical research delivery. Innovation, efficiency and streamlined research processes underpin the implementation plans to make clinical research faster and easier. This will enable more healthcare professionals to be involved in research, ultimately benefiting patients across the country.”

Key NIHR commitments in the plan include: 

  • Reducing the variation and time spent negotiating costs for commercial research through the National Contract Value Review, ensuring an aligned process for contracting of research across the whole UK. 
  • Ensuring development of digital solutions that link research approvals portals with delivery management systems where linked systems are not already in place, removing red tape and making it easier to keep track of study progress.
  • Providing recognition for key groups of staff across the NHS who play a key role in delivering research, including through a new accreditation scheme for Clinical Research Practitioners.
  • Further bolstering the five Patient Recruitment Centres, making it easier and more efficient to deliver late-stage commercial research – making the UK more attractive and allowing more people to participate in research that is of relevance to them.

Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery: 2021/22 Implementation plan Press release: £64 million funding to back UK-wide plan to strengthen clinical research delivery

Saving and improving lives: the future of UK clinical research delivery vision


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