Headlines: January 26th, 2006

All NHS patients are to be given access to clinical trials and get the chance to participate in studies of cutting-edge medical therapies as part of a new strategy designed to cut red tape and make it easier and quicker to get research programmes started. The strategy will support those carrying out health and social care research throughout England.The Minister for Quality and Patient Safety, Jane Kennedy, said the requirement to carry out research for the improvement of care and treatments was one of the founding principles of the NHS and it was important to harness the service’s capacity to make the UK the best place in the world for health research. The new strategy, “Best Research for Best Health”, aims to improve the quality of research and its relevance to patients as well as making it simpler to get research underway.

It sets out how the Department of Health will spend more than 650 million pounds a year on research and development, with NHS funding directed at high-quality, patient-based research. Under the new strategy every patient in England will have access to clinical trials and studies. The research infrastructure of the NHS will be improved by setting up the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), National School for Primary Care Research and research networks to co-ordinate the research structure of the NHS.

At the same time steps are to be taken to tackle what the Government sees as the increasing red tape stifling research. ‘Passports’ will be introduced to avoid repetition of credential checks by different health authorities and a national expert advice line will provide round the clock advice to researchers on interpreting the law. There will also be close co-operation with the National Programme for IT/Connecting for Health so data collected from the Health Service meets researchers’ needs and gives patients opportunities to participate in clinical trials.

There are plans for Research Centres to drive progress on innovation and translational research in biomedicine and service quality and safety. Other programmes will be established to fund high quality research of relevance to the NHS and researchers of all disciplines and levels will be supported through the NIHR Faculty, which is due to go live in 2007. It will provide mentoring and training to ensure career development.