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RCP research: Delivering a research system

The RCP offers support for physicians by helping deliver a system that enables research. We do this by supporting job plans, sharing experiences of other physicians, and through schemes such as the flexible portfolio training initative. Find out about the work the RCP does to support research in the NHS below. 

To deliver a system that enables physicians to do research as part of improving care we are: 

  • increasing clinical time for research by influencing job planning, guidance on Advisory Appointment Committees and criteria in excellence awards 

  • working in partnerships to model/pilot ways for trusts to protect time for research that benefits patients and improves funding opportunities 

  • ensuring patients feel empowered to support clinicians integrating research into care. 

Increasing clinical time for research

Time was identified as the major barrier to research by the RCP research survey in 2020. Two-thirds of physicians surveyed said having dedicated time for research would make them more likely to apply for a role, and 54% said a lack of time prevented them from doing more research.  
Together with Health Education England, the RCP has developed a training scheme that protects 1 day a week (20% equivalent time) for professional development, with research being one of the four pathways. Find out more about flexible portfolio training pathways. 

Research is an important consideration when job planning. By including research in a role you can make it more attractive, especially in locations where recruitment is challenging. The RCP has a statutory role to play in the appointment of consultants in NHS trusts. We also strongly advise universities recruiting to an academic role with honorary status to consult with the RCP on the consultant element of the role. Find out more about RCP Advisory Appointments Committees.

Working in partnerships to model/pilot ways for trusts to protect time for research

Many NHS trusts recognise the benefits of supporting more research activity, but find it difficult to provide protected research time for clinicians. Working with trusts, as well as the wider research community including royal colleges, NIHR, AMS and the BMA, the RCP works to develop and demonstrate viable ways of protecting time to allow more clinicians to participate in patient-facing research.

AoMRC Academic Leads Committee 

The RCP hosts the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ (AOMRC) Academic Leads Committee, chaired by the RCP academic vice president. The committee includes research leads from each royal college and other key organisations such as the Academy of Medical Sciences and Health Education England. Meetings provide an opportunity to share knowledge and experience that will add value to the work of each organisation on academic and medical research issues. We also collaborate on developing potential solutions to issues of shared policy concern and respond with a stronger voice and greater clarity than could be achieved in isolation, for example, the AoMRC’s November 2020 statement on Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on research and clinical academia.

Government/industry Clinical Research Working Group 

The RCP is part of the joint government/industry working group that aims to increase clinical research capacity and investment in the UK, and is administered by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCP supported the group’s work to analyse the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 research response. This will inform both the response to any future public health emergencies and improvements to the UK’s clinical research environment more broadly. 

NIHR Restart Advisory Group  

Through membership of the NIHR Restart Advisory Group, the RCP is helping shape the restart of clinical research following COVID-19. We are working to ensure the lessons learnt from COVID-19 help to reform and make research more resilient in the NHS, as detailed in the BMJ article, Covid-19: The catalyst we needed to reform UK research?. We are continuing to emphasise the importance of ensuring smaller hospitals remain research-active and the improvements in the speed and efficiency of trials are embedded. Further detail is outlined in this joint BMJ article with NIHR on Building back better research post-COVID-19.  

Ensuring patients feel empowered

Our clinical research sector will not be able to deliver better outcomes for patients if patients themselves are not encouraged to take part or do not find involvement in research trials worthwhile. The RCP works closely with its Patient and Carer Network and other patient groups to better understand what more can be done to ensure patients are aware of ongoing research trials and help them get the most out of their involvement. 

Find out more about what the RCP is doing to make research more accessible and attractive in our hospitals in this article in the National Health Executive.