Reaping the rewards of research

NHS England’s Director of Primary Care and Deputy Medical Director outlines the benefits to be had for GPs and patients alike from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink:

In my experience, all GPs are working flat out every day but some of the things still seem impossible to achieve.

As well as our obvious central objective of helping our patients to stay well or get better, there are further aims that many of us are likely to share: a desire to contribute to health of our wider population; being sure that medical decisions on treatment and prescribing are the best and safest they can be for our patients; and progressing our professional standards and learning.

It feels like there isn’t time to achieve all of these things and they compete for time and attention in the typical practice. But, as I’ve learned myself from steps taken within my own practice, there is a very simple way to contribute to achieving all of them simultaneously, without adding to our already challenging workloads.

Every GP in England has the opportunity to ensure their work is part of vital public health research and to learn how their treatment outcomes stand in relation to those being achieved by colleagues across the country.  This is by registering with Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).

It’s a not-for-profit government research service providing anonymised healthcare records for use in vital public health research.  Nearly 1,000 practices have already signed up for the process, which takes just a few minutes, but brings a number of benefits for them, their patients and for primary healthcare across the country.

A key benefit is regular practice-level prescribing and patient safety quality improvement reports, which can help GPs review patient care.

Other benefits of joining CPRD are:

  • Your patients are represented in research evidence that informs national clinical guidance and best practice;
  • Practices have the opportunity to take part in clinical studies, which can range from simple questionnaires to real world pragmatic trials, and this provides an extra income for the practice;
  • Case reviews from quality improvement reports, questionnaires and research can be used as evidence for annual appraisal and five-yearly professional revalidation.

It’s quick and easy to register and I find it reassuring to know that CPRD handles only patient data that is anonymous and it has to operate within robust ethics, governance and security regulation frameworks.

Primary care data held by CPRD has been gathered from more than 20 million people in the UK population from different ages and ethnicities. The scope of the interventional research to which the information contributes is growing as more practices sign up.

What sort of things is the data used for? It can be used to prove the safety of drugs or vaccines in the real world, and is especially vital in circumstances where there would be increased risk to test a new drug.

There’s ongoing work to make more GPs and practice managers aware of CPRD so expect to see it mentioned across a range of practice-facing communications.  I wanted to play my part by asking colleagues to find out more.

In my view anything that delivers so many extra benefits for healthcare from such minimal additional effort has to be worth serious consideration.

Arvind Madan

Dr Arvind Madan was appointed as NHS England’s Director of Primary Care in October 2015 with view to him providing clinical leadership for the transformation of primary care provision.

Arvind is a practicing GP based at the Hurley Group, a large multi-site general practice and urgent care provider. He retains this regular clinical commitment looking after patients in East London.

Arvind has a strong track record of using new technology and redesigned ways of working across care boundaries to improve outcomes and deliver better value for money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Kassander says:

    Don’t hold your breath for the GPs to co-operate until they get their Mouths Stuffed with Gold

    • Anonymous says:

      Not clear how this works say 1000 patients are on drug A others wrongly on B does this system high light it?

      • NHS England says:

        Thank you for your interest. The CPRD is working with the Royal College of GPs on a joint project to include clinical care in general practice. You can find out about it on the CPRD website and see a sample report to get an idea of the kind of information doctors can receive to help them in deciding on treatments for their patients.

        Kind regards
        NHS England