NHS England launches consultation to simplify and strengthen arrangements for research in the NHS

A consultation has been launched to simplify and standardise the process for getting research projects up and running in the NHS.

Cuts to bureaucracy and faster access to new and innovative treatments, are at the heart of 12 actions also agreed by the NHS England Board to support research and its application in the NHS.

Ian Dodge, National Director for Strategy and Innovation at NHS England, said: “NHS England has made a clear commitment to supporting and applying research.  Through these 12 actions we will cut bureaucracy, improve our data infrastructure, apply leading technologies and support the adoption of proven and affordable innovations.”

Professor Chris Whitty, Government Chief Scientific Officer, said: “The NHS is one of the best health systems in the world for clinical research. These initiatives are to make us even more effective at research to improve future health and care.”

A common obstacle to research is management of excess treatment costs which often arise from conducting research in the NHS. Changes have been proposed to the processes associated with this, including for specialist services and linking the wider process with the effective research networks that exist across England. NHS England is also consulting on ways to further improve commercial clinical research set-up and reporting; seeking to eliminate delays for research studies conducted across multiple sites by standardising processes.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation the proposals would result in suggested changes to the NHS Standard Contract.

Alongside the consultation, the Board is supporting the ambitions outlined in the Life Science Industrial Strategy; by prioritising the research needs of the NHS, ensuring there is strengthened local and regional support for research and innovation and simplifying how innovative treatments break through to become routine care.

The Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement, the Health Research Authority, the National Institute for Health Research and the Office for Life Sciences have a shared ambition for the NHS to offer a simple, coordinated and cost-effective process for contracting research – and are committed to working together to agree the way forward, taking into account the responses to this consultation.

Bob Bell, chair of the Association of UK University Hospitals, said: “A great strength of the NHS is its ability to conduct clinical trials at scale. But with this scale can come inefficiency, which is costly in time and money. With Government and NHS now looking at how to make the UK as attractive a place as possible in which to conduct research, it’s the ideal time to target and reduce these barriers.”

Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “We welcome this consultation and NHSE’s commitment to research in the UK. In particular, we applaud the ambition to simplify research processes and harness the very real possibilities of using data to support the UK in developing both a healthier system and population.

“We look forward to engaging in the development of sustainable and successful models of research which will inform a long-term view of how NHS costs can be managed to allow new innovation to be introduced for the benefit of patients.”

Peter Ellingworth, Chief Executive of The Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), said: “The NHS has the potential to be the best test bed for new medical technologies anywhere in the world. We welcome this initiative and the recognition from NHS England that we need to simplify the landscape for the introduction of such technologies.

“ABHI and its members are committed to contributing to this consultation and working with NHS England to accelerate the access of NHS patients to life saving and enhancing medical technology.”

The consultation will run for 9 weeks and is live on the NHS England website.