More research studies are taking place in Berkshire thanks to the support of an NHS organisation, with almost 8,000 people participating in trials last year, new figures show.
A total 183 studies took place in county hospitals, GP practices and other NHS settings supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands (LCRN) in 2016/17. This was compared to 180 studies in 2015/16 into conditions including cancer, diabetes and mental health. Almost 1,000 more people took part in 2016/17 compared to the previous year.
At Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust (RBFT), a total 95 studies took place with 5,575 people in 2016/17, the same number of studies as the previous year.
The number of studies at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – which provides community and mental health services – rose from 31 in 2015/16 to 35 in 2016/17.
There was a large increase in the number of people taking part in research at the trust, from 751 in 2015/16 to 1,757 in 2016/17, the biggest increase in England last year. This has been due to a study that has surveyed a large number of parents and teachers about their experiences of accessing support for children with anxiety disorders.
The Accessing Child Anxiety Treatment (A-CAT) trial is being run by the University of Reading to help understand the barriers to supporting children with anxiety disorders.
The increase means the trust ranked fourth for the number of participants recruited for NHS trusts which provide mental healthcare.
There were also 53 studies taking place in community settings such as GP practices in 2016/17 compared to 54 the previous year.
It means 7,977 people took part in research last year at the two NHS trusts and community NHS providers compared to 7,068 the previous year.
The NHS supports research by asking patients and healthy volunteers if they wish to take part in trials to enable participants to access new treatment and care options, with the overall aim of improving the treatment and care provided by the NHS.
Dr Atul Kapila, Research and Development Director at the RBFT, said: “Our role in research is really important to us.
“Evidence shows that research activity is linked to better patient outcomes and this year's league tables show that we are sustaining our high level of research studies.
“The team is committed to encouraging more patients, carers and staff to participate and our collaboration with Thames Valley Clinical Trials Unit and the CRN will help us to continue to drive research forward.”
The clinical trials unit is a collaboration between the University of Reading, the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust and the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
It provides dedicated expertise to ensure clinical trials – which have to pass a number of regulatory and safety checks - can take place at the university and NHS trusts.
This includes advising on the design of trials prior to an application for research funding; providing support to ensure trials run smoothly and analysing results.
Stephen Zingwe, Research and Development Manager at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The strategy to increase research activity across the trust is being met through our strong collaborative links with University of Reading, our local CRN and other partners.
“We have a dedicated research delivery team working tirelessly across services to recruit patients, carers and staff to health research. Trust-wide clinicians are also playing a huge part by encouraging patients, carers and staff interested in taking part in research to ask about it.”
Prof Belinda Lennox, Clinical Director of the LCRN, said: “These great league table results show that more people than ever before are taking part in research in our region.
“I want to thank all the patients and members of the public that have given up their time for clinical research. It is only thanks to their altruism that we can develop the lifesaving treatments that we need, and improve the services that we offer in the NHS.”
Patients are also encouraged to ask their doctor about research opportunities and view trials seeking volunteers at The UK Clinical Trials Gateway at www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk.