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Record Number Of Patients Benefit As Clinical Trial Participants Have Soared In England

By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 08 July 2020

The past 12 months has shown a positive rise in people benefiting from clinical research in England, as numbers have reached record highs with over 870,000 participants involved in clinical research studies supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) over the last year.

This high number takes significant steps towards the NHS Long Term Plans goal to reach one million people in trials by 2023/2024, which is part of the Government’s overall strategy to improve care, treatment and NHS services in England.

Health research for children has recruited the most participants this year with 81,892 people taking part. This was followed by studies delivered in primary care settings (78,533). Childbirth and sexual health research recruited the third highest number of participants at over 74,128 – up 20% from last year’s figures.

The latest figures from NIHR show that patients now have more opportunity than ever before to take part in clinical research and potentially benefit from new drugs and treatments. A survey of over 8,500 participants over the last year showed that 90% reported a good experience of taking part in research.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network says “We are delighted that this year alone, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have given their time to improve healthcare for others. Without their commitment, vital health research that changes lives simply could not happen”.

“The benefits that clinical research bring to society are profound. People who take part in studies can gain access to cutting edge, innovative new treatments. While NHS trusts and health and social care patients also benefit significantly, with evidence and innovations identified through research pivotal to the development of new types of care and treatment – ultimately leading to the prevention of ill health, earlier diagnosis, faster recovery and better outcomes.”

Baroness Blackwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care said: “From the eradication of smallpox and the discovery of penicillin, the UK has a strong track record of public health successes which have saved countless lives. All of our successes to date would have been impossible without world-leading research and the selfless volunteers who take part in clinical trials.”

A couple from Lancashire were one of many to benefit from reproductive health and childbirth research over the last year. Jessica Corbally, 27, and husband Chris, 30, had struggled to conceive a second child for several years. They recently welcomed their new baby son into the family, having taken part in a fertility study testing a new procedure.

Sheila Walker is currently undergoing cycle eight of the CARBON trial for breast cancer under the care of Prof Chris Twelves, Consultant in Clinical Oncology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals and her dog also has cancer.

She said: “Taking part in research has been amazing and I feel honored to be giving something back. My care in Leeds has been tremendous and the love and personal care I have received from the team has made it a more pleasant journey. I feel like I am part of a family and I appreciate the little things the team do and ask about when I visit for treatment.”

Sheila would tell anyone thinking of taking part in a trial to go for it. “Why not? It’s great to contribute to research, and it is something I am very proud of – you should not be scared.”