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NHS DigiTrial image

Nuffield Department of Population Health partners with NHS Digital, Microsoft and IBM for pioneering new venture.

The Nuffield Department of Population Health is working with the NHS Digital, Microsoft and IBM to develop a new hub that aims to revolutionise the way in which clinical trials are delivered – providing foundation services to determine if a clinical trial is feasible, and to support better planning and delivery of clinical trials in the UK. 

NHS DigiTrial, the NHS Health Data Research Hub for Clinical Trials, is one of seven new hubs announced today to enable cutting-edge research for health discoveries.

Led by Health Data Research UK, they are the first of their kind in the world and aim to improve the lives of people with debilitating conditions by making health data more accessible and user-friendly for research while maintaining strict controls around data privacy and consent. 

NHS DigiTrial will initially provide a foundation service to return cohort feasibility queries, support patient enrolment and communication, and long-term follow-up of a cohort. It will contribute to lowering costs of future medical treatment and therapies, and will be part of an ecosystem to support life science organisations and to attract future inward investment to the UK. 

NHS Digital will lead the consortium and provide the services, leveraging the globally-unique data assets within the NHS while ensuring privacy, confidentiality, strict adherence to information governance standards and legislation, and world-class system security.

The Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford will provide clinical and trial leadership, building on a proven track record in the safe management of clinical data and in running landmark trials of treatments for heart and other major diseases.

Microsoft will bring a wealth of knowledge and products, including their deep expertise in confidential computation in a public cloud. IBM will bring deep expertise in digital service design, data systems, programme management and the Life Sciences sector.

The hub is also supported by National Institute for Healthcare Research and the Association of Medical Research Charities as a key contribution to the UK clinical trials offer.

NHS DigiTrial will work with other hub teams, including DiscoverNow at Imperial College Health Partners, which has also submitted a successful bid for a hub focused on Clinical Trials. Collaboration is planned on a number of areas, including integration with Electronic Patient Record systems, data-curation approaches and sophisticated consent-management systems.

The perspectives of clinicians and patients will be sought throughout the development of this new hub, so that we can ensure we continuously stay tightly aligned to their expectations, and remain at the forefront of established best practice.

Professor Martin Landray, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, at the University of Oxford:

“Clinical trials are essential to understand the safety and efficacy of treatments. By working closely with patients and the NHS, this new Hub seeks to increase opportunities for participation in clinical trials and enhance the quality of the information that they produce. This new digitally-enabled approach will reduce the cost of developing new treatments and improve the quality of information available to patients and their doctors.”

“With a clear focus on data security, safety and public involvement, this is an important and exciting next step in the UK’s health data proposition and builds on the fantastic strengths we have across our health service, universities and industry.” 

 Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital:

 “Our new ‘NHS DigiTrial’ Hub will enable us to strengthen our support for academic research communities and Life Sciences partners in the extraordinary and vital work they do to develop new treatments. We are very excited about partnering with the Nuffield Department of Population Health in this work, and delighted to have support, and deep technical expertise from Microsoft and IBM.

“As the primary national data custodian for the Health and Care system, NHS Digital’s first and central consideration in all such work is operating within appropriate privacy, security and information management frameworks, and these will guide the design and delivery of this new service.”  

Dr Nicole Mather, Life Sciences lead, IBM Global Business Services, UK and Ireland:

"IBM is proud to collaborate with partners across health and life sciences bringing digital transformation to research, with the aim of getting more cutting-edge products, more quickly to NHS patients. Working together we have the potential to help change lives and pave the way for new insights by unlocking the power of health data. We will bring deep expertise in digital, technical service design and modelling, data capabilities and programme management to the partnership, collaborating to scale the transformational clinical trials capability developed through innovation from Oxford University and NHS Digital."

Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK:

“Clinical trials are fundamental in developing safe medical treatments but many are hampered by the lack of access to relevant patient information. NHS DigiTrial will transform this process, ensuring healthcare professionals are able to accelerate clinical trials and bring much-needed treatments to market, faster.

“Yet speed alone is not enough. Patients must trust their data is being held securely and only accessed appropriately. The use of Microsoft Azure will ensure all information utilised by NHS DigiTrial is integrated, managed securely and with all appropriate access controls. We are delighted to be involved in what is a great example of a public-private partnership to deliver better patient outcomes.”

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, Association of Medical Research Charities:

“AMRC believes that every patient should be offered the opportunity to be involved in research, so we’re delighted to welcome this new data-driven clinical research feasibility and recruitment service.

“Through the safe and secure management of health information the Hub will help patients across the length and breadth of England participate in clinical trials. We hope this will see more people gain faster access to new treatments.”

Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, CEO, National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN):

"The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) CRN funds teams of doctors and nurses to deliver and support patients in Clinical Trials across the NHS.  We welcome any initiative which will improve the speed and efficiency of clinical trials whilst giving patients opportunities to access leading edge treatments.  The NIHR Clinical Research Network is supporting this service which will speed up the delivery of more studies to patients and improve overall care in the NHS."