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Clinical trial participant having his blood pressure taken

A new project, led by the University of Oxford, will use NHS data to accelerate recruitment into clinical trials and increase the opportunities for NHS patients to participate in research. 

Every NHS hospital keeps a detailed record of activities. A monthly report is sent to NHS Digital, who host the data in trust for the nation, and make it available for research and other purposes. Large randomised clinical trials provide robust information on the benefits and harms of medical treatments and are critical for high quality patient care. 

The project will be led by Professor Martin Landray, Research Director, Health Data Research UK Oxford, and Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology, Nuffield Department of Population Health , who said: ‘The knowledge that we gain from clinical trials is invaluable. Without it, new, life-saving innovations might not be adopted, and new, more effective medicines might remain unproven and unused. 

‘It can be hard to recruit sufficient numbers of patients to clinical trials to allow them to provide a conclusive answer as quickly as possible. This project will enable researchers to work with the NHS and industry partners to accelerate clinical trial recruitment and provide answers to important research questions more rapidly.’ 

Tom Denwood, Executive Director of Data, Insights and Statistics at NHS Digital said: ‘We are excited to be partnering with Oxford and the wider team, putting into action the data we hold in trust for the nation in a way that respects citizen data rights while also helping to progress medical care.’ 

The project is one of ten ‘Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects’, innovative data-based solutions to healthcare challenges that have been funded through a share of £3 million of Government funding following a UK-wide competition. The initiatives will see NHS, universities and companies combining expertise and using health data responsibly to drive innovation and improve health outcomes for people across the UK.  

The UK has some of the richest health data of anywhere in the world, yet it is fragmented, and its potential to improve lives is often untapped. To address this and demonstrate the power of data in health research, the Government is funding ‘proof of concept’ initiatives, led by Health Data Research UK. These will inform the creation of a UK-wide infrastructure that securely and safely connects health data research and innovation. 

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: ‘The NHS has an unrivalled data pool - we need to work with researchers, experts and industry partners to take full advantage of this to unlock solutions to some of healthcare’s biggest challenges. 

‘These ten innovative projects are just the start of a technological revolution to create one of the most advanced health and care systems in the world to diagnose diseases earlier, save lives and empower patients to take greater control of their own healthcare.’ 

Director of Health Data Research UK Professor Andrew Morris added: ‘These ten projects from across the UK, all led by clinicians working with researchers and industry partners, will demonstrate how the trustworthy use of health data and technology can improve patient pathways, make ground-breaking discoveries quicker and put the patient in charge. We are very excited about bringing these digital projects together with public participation and support so that health data research is brought to life at scale, demonstrating public and patient benefit of digital innovation in healthcare.’ 

The projects are funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, which aims to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges of today such as an ageing population. The ‘Using routine NHS data to accelerate clinical trial recruitment’ project will be delivered by the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, NHS Digital, North West Ehealth Ltd, Aire Logic Ltd, and the University of Oxford.