New survey shows state of research in NHS

Survey published to coincide with International Clinical Trials Day shows NHS needs to do more to create a research culture

The results of a new survey, published on International Clinical Trials Day (21 May), have shown that most people are not aware that research is a core part of the work of the NHS. The survey raises concerns that patients could be missing out on opportunities to take part in potentially beneficial clinical trials as a result.

Research studies are the way that healthcare professionals gather robust evidence about what works best, in order to improve treatments for patients now and for the future.

The NHS Constitution states that the NHS will do all it can to ensure that patients are made aware of research opportunities relevant to them. However, a new survey (conducted by One Poll on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network) has found that:

  • Only 21 per cent of people surveyed were aware that carrying out research is a key activity for the NHS, yet...
  • 82 per cent of people surveyed said it is important for the NHS to offer opportunities to take part in healthcare research
  • Less than seven per cent of people surveyed said they would never take part in a clinical research study.

These figures on consumer attitudes are in stark contrast to an earlier survey of healthcare professionals, carried out by Health Service Journal magazine last year, again on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network. In this survey, 61 per cent of healthcare respondents said that research was peripheral in their NHS Trust, with only 38 per cent agreeing that research is embedded in planning and performance at board level.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, said:

"Research is core business for the NHS, so we need to encourage patients to be more demanding of their doctors and NHS institutions when it comes to offering the chance to take part in research activity. We also need to do everything we can to encourage a research culture at all levels in the NHS. It is high time that NHS Trust boards put research on their radar."

Whilst the surveys show that more work is required to build the profile of research activity in the NHS, there has been significant progress in recent years. The National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network recruited more than half a million NHS patient volunteers into research studies last year, and this number continues to increase.

The organisation is also sponsoring an award for NHS Trusts who have made the most progress in embracing research at an institutional level.  

Dr Jonathan Sheffield said:

"Research is not just an activity for the big teaching hospitals. We need district hospitals and GP surgeries to rise to the challenge. Many have already started to do so, but it's important that it keeps progressing. With an ageing population, the demands on our health service just continue to grow. Research is the best way we have to work out the most effective and efficient ways to meet patients needs. We need to take note of this survey, and keep pushing for research to have the profile it deserves with doctors and their patients."

ENDS

Tel: 0113 343 9064 or 0776 88 00 860

Email:  louise.s.wood@nihr.ac.uk

The Clinical Research Network is part of the National Institute for Health Research.   We deliver clinical research to make patients, and the NHS, better.

In practice, this means that we provide NHS Trusts with funding to employ research nurses, and cover the use of facilities (such as x-rays and scans) that are needed to carry out research.  We also manage the recruitment of NHS patients into high quality clinical research, and last year engaged more than half a million people into studies.

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About Us

Clinical research is the way that healthcare professionals gather evidence about "what works", so we can learn how to improve the treatments we give to NHS patients. Carrying out clinical research has always been a core part of the work of the NHS, and is enshrined in the NHS Constitution. The National Institute for Clinical Research Network is funded by the Department of Health to deliver high quality clinical research in the NHS for the benefit of patients. We do this by providing NHS Trusts with funding to employ research nurses, and cover the use of facilities (such x-rays or scans) needed to do research. We also manage the delivery of clinical studies in the NHS - making sure that each study attracts the right numbers of patients in a timely way. We deal with almost 3,000 research studies, and last year, through our work, more than half a million patients took part in clinical research studies in the NHS. Whilst we don't represent ALL of the research activity happening in the NHS, we are involved with a large percentage of it, so we can provide journalists with the following types of information: -Data on how many studies are happening in different disease areas at the moment, and how many patients have been recruited into clinical trials -Contacts with patients who can talk about their experience of participating in a clinical study -Comment on initiatives to try to keep commercial drug/treatment development programmes in the UK, for the benefit of NHS patients

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Only 21 per cent of people are aware that research is a key activity for the NHS
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82 per cent of people believe it is important for the NHS to offer opportunities to take part in healthcare research
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We need to encourage patients to be more demanding of their doctors and NHS institutions when it comes to offering the chance to take part in research.
Dr Jonathan Sheffield, CEO of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network