As the government sets out to create more efficient research delivery, through increasingly diverse and accessible data, and via embedded research in the NHS, patients, clinicians and researchers across the country are set to benefit from this new ambitious vision.
The recent policy paper published and developed together by the UK Government and devolved administrations sets out how exactly they plan to deliver faster, more efficient and more innovative research. From streamlining costs, contracts and approval processes, to the HRA’s rapid ethics review pilot, which aims to halve the time to provide a final opinion for research applications, no stone has been left unturned.
One of the core intentions of the new scheme is to make research participation more accessible, in turn increasing diversity and allowing more people across the whole of the UK to get involved. Working with Centres of Excellence, such as the Centre for BME Health in Leicester, research in more diverse and under-served communities will benefit from increased support, such as the innovative approaches put forward by the University of Birmingham’s Dare2Think clinical trial for example, which utilised remote eConsent and digital follow-up methods to recruit 3,000 patients across England with atrial fibrillation.
The NHS will be encouraged to put the delivery of research at the heart of their operations, proving it as an essential and rewarding part of effective patient care. This means building a positive research culture across the NHS and all health and care settings, where all staff feel empowered and supported to take part in clinical research delivery as part of their job.
Laurent Fanichet, VP Corporate Communications at Sinequa, commented: “The UK government’s vision for medical research paves the way for the NHS to become data-driven, providing a promising outlook for the future of healthcare as we start to recover from the current crisis. The global push for rapid technology adoption and data-driven decision making due to Covid-19 will support the creation of an innovative ecosystem that will propel research and enhance NHS care.
“Implementing new guidelines is only the first step, however. Government agencies must work closely with the NHS to ensure that employees have fast access to accurate information and the right tools to conduct clinical studies that comply with GDPR regulation. In supporting the workforce, the UK will be one step closer to building a digitally enabled healthcare system, facilitating the creation of new treatments, drugs and vaccines that will support frontline workers and improve the lives of patients.”
“Clinical research is the backbone of healthcare – it is the way we improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and improves the lives of patients across the country. This has never been more true than in our response to the pandemic” comments Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. “By taking advantage of our world-renowned research expertise, and a strong partnership between business, academia, the NHS and government, we are determined to make the UK the best possible place to carry out clinical research that will improve the health of people here and across the world” he continues. “Ground-breaking technologies, data and analytics will transform healthcare and save lives. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and make this vision a reality.”
Important lessons have also been learned from the pandemic about where research can be improved, such as empowering the healthcare and research workers who have worked to take care of patients during the pandemic, to ensure that the workforce is fully supported and resilient to future challenges. A need to go even further in terms of innovative trial design and delivery has also been highlighted.
The vision is built around 5 key themes:
Clinical research embedded in the NHS: to create a research-positive culture in which all health and care staff feel empowered to support and participate in clinical research as part of their job.
Patient-centred research: to make access and participation in research as easy as possible for everyone across the UK, including rural, diverse and under-served populations.
Streamlined, efficient and innovative research: so the UK is seen as the best place in the world to conduct fast, efficient and cutting-edge clinical research.
Research enabled by data and digital tools: to ensure the UK has the most advanced and data-enabled clinical research environment in the world, building on unique data assets to improve health and care.
A sustainable and supported research workforce: which offers rewarding opportunities and exciting careers for all healthcare and research staff of all professional backgrounds – across both commercial and non-commercial research.
To deliver these aims, several priority areas have been identified, such as improving the speed and efficiency of setting up studies, building upon digital platforms to deliver clinical research, and making research more diverse and more relevant to the whole UK. This will break down traditional barriers and deliver a patient-centred and pro-innovation clinical research environment.
The launch of the UK-wide vision will be followed by implementation plans and strategies setting out how the UK government and devolved administrations will begin to deliver the vision during 2021 to 2022.