Over one million people in primary care have actively participated in research studies looking at healthier lifestyle, disease diagnosis and prevention, and management of long term illnesses such as diabetes, as reported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Clinical research is the way clinicians in primary care (including GPs, dentists and pharmacists) gather evidence about new treatments, in order to improve patient care in the NHS.
Simon Denegri is the NIHR National Director for Patients and the Public in Research, he said:
“This is fantastic news. The nature of the health challenges facing the UK means that GPs, in partnership with patients and carers, have a crucial role to play in developing treatments of patient benefit. That over one million people have volunteered to participate in clinical studies is a mark of how successful this partnership has become. The NIHR hopes that many more people and their families will be encouraged by this to also come forward and help us do more life-saving work. Research cannot happen without them.”
The NIHR Clinical Research Network provides clinicians with the practical support they need to make research studies happen, so that more research takes place across England, and more patients can take part.
In April 2006, the NIHR Clinical Research Network created the Primary Care Specialty to bring research opportunities for patients closer to home, where the majority of common illnesses and conditions are treated.
Of the 7,840 general practices in England, 42 per cent are now active in research. The Network works with key stakeholders to promote the successful delivery of research studies in the NHS and to help plan new studies that will address the needs of patients. Collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has meant that over 1,000 practices are now Research Ready® accredited. See the below Q&A with the RCGP to find out more.
Professor Paul Wallace has been in the Network since the Primary Care Specialty began. Currently Co Specialty Cluster Lead for Primary Care, he looks back over the last ten years:
"This is very exciting news, and it is really wonderful that we are reaching such a large proportion of the population. People all over the country now have the opportunity to take part in research in their local community as well as at their hospital. We have come a long way thanks to the Network, which has enabled us to give so many practices the mechanisms to help their patients get involved with research.
“To see the proportion of research active practices grow over the years has been phenomenal and reaching this milestone is a tribute to Network staff, primary care staff but above all, patients and the public who have given their time freely to make a difference in the NHS.”
In 2015/16 there were 249 open studies on the NIHR Clinical Research Network Primary Care Portfolio. The Primary Care Specialty also supports or is involved in research relating to the other 29 Network specialties such as Diabetes, Respiratory and Mental Health. This means that last year the Primary Care Specialty supported over one quarter of the recruitment to the NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio (total recruitment over 605,000).