Clinical research is, and has always been, at the very heart of the NHS. Only by carrying out research into "what works" can we continually improve treatment for patients, and understand how to focus NHS resources where they will be most effective.
In 2006, the Department of Health set up the National Institute for Health Research to create a world-class health system within the NHS, and the Clinical Research Network is part of this wider organisation.
At the centre of what we do is the Portfolio – a collection of high-quality clinical studies that benefit from the infrastructure provided by the Clinical Research Network. Many of these studies are Randomized Controlled Trials - considered by many in the medical profession to be the most robust form of clinical trial - although we also support other types of well-designed research.
This is how, in practice, we provide an "infrastructure" to support our Portfolio studies:
- We run CSP - a system through which researchers can apply for permission to run a clinical study in the NHS. We are constantly working to speed up and simplify this process, so that researchers can get a clinical study up and running quickly, with the minimum of bureaucracy.
- We fund research support posts in the NHS, and provide training, so that researchers have access to experienced "front-line" staff, who can carry out the additional practical activities required by their study such as obtaining patient consent for participation, carrying out extra tests, and collecting the clinical data required for the research.
- We provide funding to meet the costs of using facilities such as scanners and x-rays that are needed in the course of the study, so that research activity adds value to patient care.
- And we provide practical help in identifying and recruiting patients onto Portfolio studies, so that researchers can be confident of completing the study on time, and on target.
Although the Clinical Research Network operates as one organisation, we are made up of a number of different parts:
- Six “Topic” Research Networks (covering Cancer, Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases, Diabetes, Medicines for Children, Mental Health and Stroke)
- A Primary Care Research Network to support research in this part of the health service
- A Comprehensive Clinical Research Network, which covers all other disease areas.
You can read more about each of these by clicking on buttons on the right.
The final element of the Clinical Research Network is the Coordinating Centre, which is responsible for managing the overall performance of the Networks. In addition to this, the Coordinating Centre team develops and delivers streamlined central systems (CSP), and undertakes specialist cross-cutting activites to support the commercial life-sciences industry, develop the research workforce, and promote patient and public involvement in clinical trials.