The United Kingdom (UK) government has released a policy paper detailing its vision for the future of clinical research in the UK.
The paper initially outlines the challenges, successes and lessons learnt from conducting clinical research during the COVID-19 pandemic. This refers to research directly related to COVID-19 such as the RECOVERY trial and vaccine-related trials, along with clinical research for other diseases. With workforce pressures and disruption to existing protocols due to the pandemic, a plethora of clinical research into other diseases has stalled as study sites have closed or struggled to recruit subjects. This has led to the formation of a future strategy with 5 key themes at its core:
- Embedding clinical research in the NHS by fostering an environment in which all healthcare staff feel empowered to support clinical research
- Patient-centred research to ensure all population groups across the UK have an input in clinical research
- Streamlined, efficient and innovative research
- Research enabled by data and digital tools
- A sustainable and supported research workforce.
In order to achieve these key themes of the vision, seven priority areas have been identified to deliver on this vision:
- Improving the speed and efficiency of study set-up via expediting costing, contracting and approvals
- Building upon the success of digital platforms to deliver clinical research, by increasing their capacity and improving their efficacy
- Increasing the use of innovative research designs and adapting to virtual processes and technologies
- Aligning research programmes and processes with the needs of the UK health and care system
- Improving visibility and promoting research activity across the NHS
- Making research more diverse and more applicable to the whole of the UK population with a particular focus on areas with the highest healthcare burdens and levels of deprivation
- Strengthening public and patient involvement in research to maximise diversity and engagement across all clinical research.
Regulators will play a key role in executing this strategy, particularly when it comes to accelerating the set-up phase of a trial as per the first priority area outlined in the paper. It is stated that several projects will be announced later in the year (such as the latest pilot on patient involvement), and this will outline the UK’s strategy to deliver on this vision during 2021-2022. It is clear from the policy document that the UK is aiming to become renowned as a world-leader in cutting edge clinical research. Whilst innovation and adapting to the latest technologies plays a key role in this, a common theme is fostering a research-minded culture across all levels of the NHS, along with a strong drive to collaborate across various organisations. In this way, the NHS, policy-makers, private organisations and regulators are factored into the UK’s strategy to deliver on this vision.
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