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Number of participants in NIHR-supported research exceeds one million for the first time

Published: 22 October 2019

The number of participants in health and social care research studies supported by the NIHR has increased by more than 20% to top one million for the first time.

Figures released by the NIHR today show that 1,015,487 participants took part in NIHR-supported research studies in England during the 2018/19 financial year. This compares to 835,904 in 2017/18, so the latest figure is an increase of 21.5%.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “Research has the potential to unlock solutions to the biggest challenges facing healthcare today, but breakthroughs are impossible without the participation of incredible volunteers who give up their time to get involved.

“I am delighted we have reached the one million participants milestone, and with so many ways to participate - such as the Be Part of Research website and the NIHR BioResource – I hope to see many more people volunteering so we can continue to improve care and ultimately save lives.”

In 2018/19, the NIHR Clinical Research Network recruited 870,250 participants to over 6,100 clinical research studies and trials. An additional 145,237 participants joined research studies run through NIHR’s Clinical Research Facilities, Biomedical Research Centres and other research infrastructure.

The increase is down to more new studies opening, an increase in the number of large clinical research studies and trials, and improved data collection processes.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England and NIHR lead, said: “To pass the one million mark for participants in research studies is a significant milestone. This is due to the generous nature of patients and the public, without whom vital health research simply could not happen.”

NIHR supports research studies and trials across the country in a variety of ways - from directly funding individual studies to supporting centres and facilities that allow studies to take place. Research participants volunteer to be part of NIHR-supported studies to help improve treatment and care across all areas of health and social care.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network supported England’s highest recruiting study in 2018/19 - an innovative project focusing on children who attend A&E. The PAT-POPS study, which is funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme, is testing a tool to help clinicians decide which children can be safely sent home from A&E and which need to be admitted to hospital, based on observations like heart rate and temperature. More than 32,000 children and young people joined the study in 2018/19 across three A&E departments and an urgent care unit.

Across NIHR-supported facilities, centres and other collaborations, 702 participants were recruited to the TwinsUK registry, a large cohort study supported by the NIHR BioResource that aims to understand the genetic and environmental basis of a range of complex diseases. Another project at the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England is looking at the use of app to find ways to improve patient care by tackling fatigue and poor sleep quality in NHS shift workers, which recruited 753 participants.

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