The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network, which provides more than $471.4 million a year to support the delivery of clinical research studies in the NHS, has reconfigured and will be operating in a new streamlined structure.
Until this point, the Network has comprised 102 overlapping local networks, each supporting clinical research studies in different therapy areas or parts of the service. From April, this has been rationalized into 15 local Clinical Research Networks across England, which will deliver studies across all therapy areas.
The geographical boundaries of the Networks correlate with those of the Academic Health Science Networks, although the remits of the two organizations remain separate.
Dr. Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said, “The ability to conduct clinical research is hugely important to the future of the NHS because it is the way we gather evidence to improve the quality of care for patients. Over the last year we have seen significant changes in both the NHS environment, and in the nature of research studies. It was important for the Network to evolve, so we can continue to provide the flexible infrastructure the research community needs to conduct clinical studies efficiently in the NHS.”
Last year, the NIHR Clinical Research Network supported the delivery of more than 4,200 clinical research studies in the NHS, including studies sponsored by major charities and commercial life-sciences companies. It did this by providing funds to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries to invest in clinical research nurses to match patients with appropriate research opportunities, carry out the clinical duties required by the studies and cover research-related costs such as x-rays and scans.
Through the work of the Network, more than 630,000 NHS patients took part in clinical research studies during 2012-2013. In addition, the number of commercial contract studies grew by 17% compared with the previous year and the Network is on track to continue this upward trend when it publishes its latest figures in a few months’ time.
As part of the restructuring process, the Network has appointed new chief operating officers and clinical directors for each of the 15 Networks.
Sheffield said, “With our new local leadership teams now in place, we are confident we can take clinical research delivery in the NHS on to the next level.”