National Institute for Health Research

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from National Institute for Health Research is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

CEO Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE
Dr Shivani Misra, NIHR clinical
champion in diabetes
Last year one volunteer every 12 seconds was recruited to
take part in clinical research in England’s NHS. This research
helps to develop the next generation of therapies and
treatments. The Clinical Research Network, or CRN, part of the
National Institute for Health Research, or NIHR, takes the lead
in supporting the NHS to deliver high-quality clinical studies on
time and on target. CEO Dr Jonathan Sheffield discusses how
the organisation’s role “gives the UK a competitive edge”.
Last year, over 870,000 people were recruited to take part in NHS and social care
research across every single NHS trust in England, and two in every five GP practices
in England were research-active, too.
This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work and
dedication of NHS staff and volunteer research advocates. A simple thank you
cannot express the gratitude we have for their support.
Just 16 years ago, the landscape was completely different. In 2003, two reports
identified critical challenges including the serious consequences for national health
and wealth resulting from inadequate support for clinical research, the need to
build collaboration between the NHS and industry for patient benefit and the
requirement for sufficient and sustainable funding for future studies.
In response, the Department of Health published the
Best Research for Best Health
paper in 2006. The strategy recommended the founding of the CRN, along with
»CEO: Dr Jonathan Sheffield
»Founded in 2006
»As a hosted organisation, the
NIHR CRN has a presence in
NHS trusts across England
»870,000 people supported
into NHS hosted research last
year; that’s 1 person recruited
every 12 seconds
National Institute for Health
Research Clinical Research Network
Highlighting best practice
The mission for the Clinical Research Network and other parts of the
NIHR is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through NHS
and social care conducted research. We deliver against this mission
through five strategic workstreams:
»Funding, supporting and delivering high quality research that
benefits the NHS, public health and social care
»Engaging and involving patients and the public in order to improve
the reach, quality and impact of research
»Attracting training and supporting the best researchers to tackle
the complex health and care challenges of the future
»Investing in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce
to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
»Partnering with other public funders, charities and industry to
maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.
the other constituent parts of the
NIHR, to address the challenges faced
by the NHS.
We are an alliance that brings together
university know-how and excellence
in research with high quality patient
care. The consortium of Guys and St
Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and
University of Leeds has since 2015
hosted the CRN, and enables us to
deliver high-quality research to improve
the health and wealth of the nation.
The British public will continue to
rightly expect the latest innovations
and therapies from the NHS and
social care, and we will be there to
support research and transition ideas
into frontline therapies for mental
health, cancer, stroke and many other
Our mission
The CRN operates in the NHS at a time
of high pressure, high demand and
high expectation on limited clinical
resources. It is easy to think our health
and care services should focus solely on
hands-on care but through research we
can make transformative improvements
in future health and care delivery.
The NHS and local authorities are
working together in 44 local systems
of health and care, with the goals of
service sustainability, and improving
the quality and delivery of care. The
research we support is helping those
planning care replace old, time-
intensive and costly interventions with
effective treatments based on the latest
scientific evidence.
We invest in frontline staff, sustaining
excellent research capacity and
expertise throughout clinical and non-
clinical academic career pathways.
We’ve built a network of 15 NHS
local clinical research networks across
England, where we are able to recruit
the right patients to take part in
Patients such as Harry, who was born
15 weeks early at Burnley General
Teaching Hospital. Harry’s mother
Stephanie had little warning when
he was born at 24 weeks and five
days – putting him in the category
of extremely preterm. From the
outset, he was treated for a range of
complications in a neonatal intensive
care unit.
These included bleeds on the brain,
sepsis, meningitis and an eye problem
called retinopathy of prematurity. Harry
required multiple blood and platelet
transfusions and only had a 50 per cent
chance of leaving the hospital alive.
Harry was identified early to participant
in Planet-2, a study supported by the
This research is helping doctors to
better understand when to give
platelet transfusions to premature
babies with low blood counts. It was
research advances prior to Harry’s birth
that enabled him to leave hospital.
His contribution has led to our wider
understanding of premature baby care.
Sixteen weeks after Harry was born, he
had improved enough to go home to
Haslingden, Lancashire.
the NHS as a
research in
the public
Best Research for Best
, 2006
We need support from many more
patients like Harry and his parents
to help us continue to deliver the
disruptive innovations that transform
health care.
We also work closely with the health
and care services of our devolved
administrations collaborating on many
of our trials. Our pioneering digital
service programmes work across
borders and engage closely with health
research charities.
Digital innovation
It is only through research that we can
understand what causes the disease,
develop effective treatments, improve
care and prevention and in some
life changing studies find cures. For
research to progress we need more
people to take part.
I began my research management
career 25 years ago at Yeovil
Hospital. In those days we needed
to recruit patients during face to
face consultations. Today, this is still
the main recruitment pathway and
last year over 870,000 people, were
enrolled in our studies. Increasingly we
are finding new ways to engage the
public allowing access to thousands of
research opportunities from the palm
of their hand.
We have developed digital tools
to accelerate the delivery of life-
changing treatments while improving
engagement with patients,
researchers, life science industry and
the wider NHS. Tens of thousands of
people each month are using the CRN
digital services to search or register for
research opportunities.
Our digital service, Be Part of Research,
has had over 40,000 visitors a month
and connects those wanting to
take part in a research study with
opportunities from across the UK.
The service has over 3,000 studies
for a range of conditions, from
cancer to diabetes, infections to pain
We are working in partnership
with NHS Digital, NHS England and
NHS Improvement and the newly-
constituted NHSX to bring these
opportunities to every NHS app user.
The future for medical research
We recruit a member of the public
to a clinical trial every 12 seconds in
England. People join for a variety of
reasons; some want to try a different
therapy for their condition, while
others just want to give back.
The NHS long term plan has a goal of
supporting a million people to register
interest into NHS research by 2023/24.
Last year all NHS trusts in England
contributed to our studies and research
is part of the “well led” assessment of
the CQC. We know that trusts highly
active research trusts also have better
long term outcomes for their patients.
Ultimately the goal is faster translation
of research into improved treatments.
We also recruited 65,000 people into
mental health studies, helping to
bridge the gap in our understanding of
both mental and physical health. It is
the consistency of our delivery to time,
target and replication which makes
the local clinical network research that
we coordinate, highly competitive
As we look to recruitment of over a
million patients a year, expand further
into primary care and work with
colleagues in social care, there has
never been a more important time to
support NHS conducted research.
This achievement
would not have
been possible
without the hard
work and
dedication of
NHS staff and
Harry, one of the
thousands of infants
recruited into health
By 2015, nearly £3.5
billion of additional
research investment
has been attracted
through our centres and
facilities for experimental
medicine in the NHS,
with a year-on-year
increase in funding from
industry and charities of
at least 40 per cent.

This article was sponsored by National Institute for Health Research. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.