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More patients than ever before took part in clinical trials in the South West last year, report shows

Nearly 30,000 people in the South West received the most advanced care in the NHS last year after being enrolled in pioneering clinical trials, it was revealed today.

The South West saw a 17% increase in the number of people taking part in research studies in 2017/18 – with 29,134 people opting to take part in a research study, up from 24,838 in 2016/17.

Each year, the Research Activity League Table is published by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN), to detail research activity across all NHS trusts in England.

Eight of the 11 NHS trusts in the South West Peninsula increased the number of people recruited into studies last year and 55% of trusts in the region also saw an increase in the number of studies it was able to offer patients.

Research-active healthcare organisations in the South West also performed well when it came to commercial contract studies, those typically funded by pharmaceutical or med-tech companies, with 27% of NHS trusts seeing an increase in the number of studies offered to patients and 75% of CCGs seeing an increase.

This year’s figures, which cover the twelve month period between April 2017 to March 2018, suggest that health research is thriving across the country and the NHS continues to be seen as a good place to deliver high quality clinical trials.

Clinical research is the way that doctors gather evidence about new treatments, in order to improve patient care in the NHS. A growing body of research indicates that a research-active culture brings a host of benefits for patients, clinicians and the NHS. It drives innovation, gives rise to better and more cost-effective treatments, and creates opportunities for staff development. Consequently, although most NHS organisations do some level of research, there is a national drive to increase the number of opportunities for patients to take part in high-quality research studies.

Helen Quinn, Chief Operating Officer and Lead for Nursing, NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said: “The league table results are a great achievement for all involved and highlight the growing commitment to research from both healthcare organisations and patients in the South West.

“It is particularly exciting to see the achievements of our research collaborations in the region. As a research network we are committed to supporting collaboration amongst our partnering organisations to ensure we offer our patients trials we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

“Improving the clinical research infrastructure in the South West by forming collaborations between trusts, GP practices, dental practices and community healthcare providers is vitally important in ensuring we are able to offer our patients more and more trials year-on-year, in turn enabling our clinicians to deliver the very best in healthcare.”

Eighty-year-old Ann Matthews, from Exeter, took part in a study funded by the life sciences industry looking at halting the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I had absolutely no qualms about taking part in research,” she said. “If it doesn’t help me it might help people in the future which is, of course, what is necessary. God forbid my grandchildren or baby great grandchildren ever suffer this horrible disease but if they should I want to be able to say that your granny helped find a cure and here it is. That is my driver.”

The league table is available on the NIHR website at www.nihr.ac.uk/research-and-impact/nhs-research-performance/league-tables/ for anyone wanting to understand how much research activity is happening in their local trust or CCG region.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, Chief Executive Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) said: “By taking part in life sciences industry studies, patients are participating in new and innovative forms of treatment which will provide evidence for future improved care for all patients. The knowledge gained could provide the evidence to license new treatments in the NHS securing healthy lives for future generations.

“Partnerships between the NHS and the life sciences industry bring a range of benefits to the healthcare sector – giving trusts access to new treatments and funding for health research, while also boosting the wider economy each year through the development of cutting edge medical innovations.”