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NIHR welcomes O’Shaughnessy review into commercial clinical trials

researcher holding testtubes

Published: 26 May 2023

The NIHR has welcomed Lord O’Shaughnessy’s independent review into the commercial clinical trials landscape. The review sets out the actions needed to address key challenges within the system and reflect the work well underway by NIHR to create a thriving clinical research system fit for the future.

The NIHR has been at the forefront of the UK’s vision to transform the future of research delivery and has already delivered real change across the clinical trial system to help build back a thriving competitive life science sector.

Professor Lucy Chappell, DHSC’s Chief Scientific Advisor and NIHR CEO, said:

"The UK has an excellent track record when it comes to clinical research. Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review highlights priorities where we can do even better. We delivered record amounts of research in the COVID-19 pandemic to enable treatments for patients at pace and scale. We are now rebuilding the research portfolio to enable an effective, efficient, and innovative health research system to improve outcomes for people across the NHS.

"Through acting on the key recommendations within the review, we can enable more clinical trials to be conducted in the UK, ultimately leading to more lives improved and saved through innovative interventions."

Sine Littlewood, NIHR Clinical Research Network’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, said:

"Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review sets out some clear focus areas for the improvement of commercial clinical trial delivery reflecting much of the work NIHR has been undertaking to meet these challenges.

"NIHR’s programme of work means we are moving more quickly towards a more innovative, more efficient and inclusive health research system that will improve lives for people all over the UK. Through this sustained focus and collaboration with partners across the research community, we look forward to making further progress through the UK Clinical Research Recovery, Resilience and Growth (RRG) programme."

Transformative change underway

Making it easier for patients to take part in research

Our 'Be Part of Research' service makes it easy for people across the UK to take part in research. It's available through the NHS app in England, and the NHS website homepage. The NHS homepage gets more than 50 million visits per month. Over 150,000 people have signed up to Be Part of Research since January 2023.

Health and care researchers can use this free service to find potential participants for their studies. This includes researchers working in life sciences industries and health charities. 'Be Part of Research' has been developed to make it more accessible for everyone.

This helps to improve inclusion and diversity in research participation. People can search for trials and studies in particular health conditions and locations. It includes virtual opportunities they can do from home.

See Be Part of Research for more information.

Improving efficiency of research set up

We worked with NHS England and devolved administration partners to streamline contracting for commercially sponsored research.

We did this through the UK National Contract Value Review (NCVR).

NCVR enables NHS organisations and the life sciences industry to apply a standardised approach to costing and contracting for commercial contract research in the UK. It increases the speed and efficiency of research set up and capacity for more research in the NHS.

After six months, commercial studies are being set up 95 days faster than before, on average.

Before the review, it took an average of seven months to complete costing and contracting as part of the set-up for a clinical trial or study. This has been reduced to four months following the new process.

Over 500 commercial studies have now entered into the National Contract Value Review process since it was launched in October 2022. This equates to approximately 83 studies per month. Over 220 studies have completed the Study Resource Review phase of the process and are now in the site contract negotiation phase. This involves over 2,000 sites.

Strengthening the research workforce

We launched a new professional accreditation scheme for Clinical Research Practitioners (CRP) in the UK. This will help in our efforts to double the number of this important workforce over the next few years.

In England, CRP-eligible roles make up around 25% of the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s funded workforce.

They work alongside 5,000 research nurses to deliver the safe, ethical and high quality clinical research care that is transforming patient care and treatment.

The accreditation scheme will:

  • improve professional identity
  • recognise the vital role CRPs play in research delivery
  • provide a clear path for the career development of CRPs

We also launched the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator Scheme.

It aims to:

  • make research a routine part of clinical training
  • develop health and care professionals to be the PIs of the future
  • recognise and promote health professionals’ engagement in NIHR portfolio research in a consistent manner

Read more about the UK Recovery, Resilience and Growth programme and the work to transform clinical research delivery.

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