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New UK plan published to propel clinical research into the future

New UK plan published to propel clinical research into the future

23rd June 2021

Following the bold visionSaving and improving lives: the future of UK clinical research delivery’ published in March, the UK government and devolved administrations today set out the first phase of activity to ensure research will have better health outcomes and allow more patients to be involved in, and benefit from, research of relevance to them.

The activity for the coming months will include:

  • the development and trial of new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines
  • making UK clinical research delivery easier through more rapid ethics reviews and faster approval processes
  • boosting clinical research capacity with more virtual and remote trials
  • increasing diversity and participation in research in communities traditionally under-served by research
  • digitising the clinical research process to allow researchers to find patients, offer them places in trials, and monitor health outcomes.

Welcoming the plans, Humza Yousaf, Health Secretary, Scottish Government said:

“Scotland has a long history of pioneering health research and through NHS Research Scotland and the Chief Scientist Office of Scottish Government we are committed to working with our partners across the UK to create a more innovative and resilient research environment that will ultimately improve patients’ lives.

“The plan we have launched today recognises the importance of collaboration and cross border working, ensuring the UK is a cohesive and streamlined location to attract, and undertake, research in a global economy.”

The link between research and benefit to patients through better treatments and care has never been clearer. Over the last year the UK’s research efforts fighting COVID-19 have reinforced the vital role clinical research plays in the health of the population. Continued development of new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will ensure a front-footed approach in tackling the virus. 

The activity in the coming months will include:   

  • Driving the recovery of the UK’s clinical research portfolio, while continuing to develop and trial new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines -  working across the UK in partnership with the research funders, the devolved administrations and other stakeholders to identify the most pressing studies that require support to recover. 
  • Making UK clinical research delivery easier, more efficient and more effective through key initiatives including rapid research ethics review allowing faster approval for research and getting trials off the ground quicker.
  • Boosting clinical research capacity, including through increasing the number of virtual and remote trials, enabling more research to take place outside of traditional NHS settings, and expanding Patient Recruitment Centres to provide additional capacity for late-stage commercial research. 
  • Increasing diversity and participation in research, by working with partners such as the Centre for BME Health in Leicester to develop systems and processes that enable health research to be directed to and supported within areas and communities traditionally under-served by research to increase diversity of research participants and to help tackle health inequalities.
  • Digitising the clinical research process to make it faster and cheaper by beginning to create a holistic, data-enabled Find, Recruit and Follow-up service, allowing researchers to digitally find patients, offer them places in trials and monitor health outcomes as part of the study, making the set-up and delivery of clinical research faster, easier and more inclusive, to accelerate the development of life saving health-innovations. 

Publication of the plan follows on from the historic G7 Health Ministers’ agreement to create a new Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter setting out shared principles to accelerate the speed with which clinical trials generate robust evidence and how their findings can be implemented in this and future pandemics.

Close collaborative and partnership working between organisations right across the UK through the Clinical Research Recovery, Resilience and Growth programme - which includes representatives from all UK health departments, the NHS, regulators, the NIHR, medical research charities and industry - will help make the UK one of the best places in the world to conduct cutting-edge clinical research.

Detailed plans are set out in Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery: 2021-2022 implementation plan 

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