DHSC announces £64 million in funding and new plan to strengthen clinical research delivery

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published an implementation plan for strengthening clinical research delivery in the UK – including a commitment to providing £64 million in funding for the programme.

On 23 June, the DHSC announced the first year of activities that will go towards delivering on its previously published vision for Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery.

The implementation plan builds on the key themes in the vision, which are centred around creating:

  • Better health outcomes through more effective and efficient research
  • Promoting a patient-centred and data-enabled clinical research environment
  • Embedding research in the NHS to increase UK’s capacity and capability to deliver cutting-edge clinical research.

According to the DHSC, patients across the UK will “benefit from a super-charged clinical research system”, which will be backed by “over £64 million of investment”.

Following publication of the ‘vision’ in March, the UK government and devolved administrations have now set out the ‘first phase’ of activity. The ultimate goal is to “ensure research will have better health outcomes and allow more patients to be involved in, and benefit from, research of relevance to them.”

This will include: the development and trial of new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines; making 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.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, commented: “Clinical research has been vital in our fight against COVID-19 and has saved thousands of lives. Working with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments, our ambitious UK-wide vision for the future of clinical research delivery is essential if we are to build on this exciting and life saving momentum.   

“We are making this vision a reality by continuing to work closely with our partners across the UK, the NHS, regulators, industry and medical research sector. We will create a more innovative, resilient and patient-centred clinical research system.

“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.”

In the coming months, the DHSC says that further activities will include “driving the recovery of the UK’s clinical research portfolio”, identifying “the most pressing” studies that require support, boosting clinical research capacity, and expanding Patient Recruitment Centres.

On the area of increasing diversity and participation in research, the DHSC will work with partners such as the Centre for BME Health in Leicester to “to increase diversity of research participants” and to “help tackle health inequalities”.

There will also be “a holistic, data-enabled” Find, Recruit and Follow-up service, which will enable researchers to find patients digitally to offer them places in trials.”

Lord Bethell, Minister for Innovation, said: “This is the first step in a big ambitious vision. We will continue to build upon these strong foundations to deliver a research ecosystem that positions the UK as a global leader in cutting-edge clinical research. With research embedded across the NHS, UK will be a global leader in trials for new treatments and technologies.

Officials and ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also came out in support of the plan, which follows the G7 Health Ministers’ agreement to create a new Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter, the aim of which is to “accelerate the speed with which clinical trials generate robust evidence” and using the findings to inform during potential future pandemics.

To read the plan in full, visit gov.uk.