The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) have published a joint position statement on ‘Making research everybody’s business’.
The statement sets out how to make clinical research part of everyday practice for all health workers and the benefits this could have for tackling backlogs and reducing pressures on the NHS.
It highlights that during the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical research was essential to the development of vaccines and the discovery of treatments such as dexamethasone which have saved millions of lives globally. With the health service now under severe strain and record numbers of patients on waiting lists, clinical research can again play a vital role in supporting the NHS by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of care.
While the UK’s research into COVID-19 has been hugely successful and world-leading, the pandemic has caused significant disruption to the development of treatments for other conditions, with over 40% of NHS trusts pausing non-COVID-19 research studies during the first wave. In their joint statement, RCP and NIHR emphasise that the recovery of clinical research activity should now be a key priority for the NHS and that every health worker can play a role in this.
The position statement makes recommendations for stakeholders across the health and care system, with the overall aim of embedding research in clinical practice. This includes several proposals relevant to integrated care systems (ICSs), to support the implementation of new duties on research set out in the Health and Care Act 2022. It suggests that ICSs, trusts and health boards should:
- Develop strong links between medical directors, research and development (R&D) directors and chief executives.
- Encourage support for research to be recognised as part of direct clinical activity and reward involvement of such through local and national awards.
- Ensure that multidisciplinary workforce planning encompasses those who support research.
- Take opportunities to implement proportionate training requirements for those involved in research, including taking account of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Health Research Authority’s joint statement on the application of Good Clinical Practice.
The statement makes further recommendations, including for NHS England and Health Education England, regulators and funding bodies. It is being supported by UK Research and Innovation, UKRD, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam, academic vice president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that without the work of clinical researchers, more lives would have been lost during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That incredibly challenging time demonstrated just how important research is, and why all healthcare workers should have the opportunity to take part in clinical research.
“The RCP believes every clinician working in the NHS should be supported to become research active. High-quality research in the NHS is everyone’s responsibility and needs to be a core part of clinical care.
“The events of recent years have shown clearly that research needs to be normalised in the NHS, especially in the most difficult of times, as research for all.”
Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive officer of the National Institute for Health and Care Research, said:
“It is incredibly important that every healthcare professional working in the NHS is able to support, facilitate or lead research, whether that is through identifying opportunities for new research, offering research to patients and the public, supporting colleagues or leading studies themselves.
“As our statement makes clear, research and innovation are key indicators of providing high-quality care. They should be seen as core activities within clinical care for all clinicians, so as to improve outcomes for patients, and support recruitment and retention of the workforce.”