Through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Government is investing in the infrastructure, skills and facilities that the National Health Service and general practitioner (GP) practices need to participate in commercial research.
In 2017 the Government announced more than £950 million investment in research infrastructure in the National Health Service including Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Clinical Research Facilities, Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (funded in partnership with Cancer Research UK and the Devolved Administrations) and Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives.
These centres and facilities conduct and support translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients. In 2017-18, NIHR research infrastructure has generated over £231 million of industry research investment, and the NIHR BRCs have supported over 1,770 Industry collaborative and contract research studies, filed 199 patents, and created five spin-out companies.
The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports the delivery of clinical research trials and other studies in the NHS to quality, time and target, providing world-class health service infrastructure, for example research support staff such as clinical research nurses; and research support services such as pharmacy, pathology and radiology, to support clinical research in the NHS in England.
In 2017-18 the NIHR CRN achieved record levels of recruitment with over 725,000 people taking part in clinical research studies supported by the Network. Of these, over 50,000 participants were recruited to studies sponsored by the life sciences industry, including 24 global first patients. Around 10,000 of these participants were recruited in primary care, primarily through GP practices.
The NIHR CRN has the ambition to increase the proportion of NHS trusts and GP practices involved in delivering commercial clinical research. In 2017/18 99% of NHS trusts and 32% of GP practices were actively engaged in clinical research, and 82% of NHS trusts and 2% of GP practices recruited patients into commercial contract research studies.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Sector Deals confirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to life sciences research. Life Sciences Sector Deal 2 announced a suite of measures to make our clinical research environment faster, more efficient, streamlined and innovative. The NIHR has committed to work closely with industry and NHS trusts to investigate workforce resource challenges in commercial contract research, and to identify opportunities to recognise and incentivise NHS trusts and GP practices acting as participant identification centres.
The NHS Long Term Plan recognises that increased research participation leads to improved healthcare performance and that research and innovation are important for the UK economy, confirming that the NHS endorses and will play its full part in delivering the Life Sciences Sector Deals. In addition, the Long Term Plan commits to increase the number of people registering to participate in health research to one million by 2023/24, and to continue to make it faster, cheaper and easier to undertake research in England through simpler standardised trial set-up processes and prices, initiated as part of NHS England’s 12 Actions to Support and Apply Research in the NHS.