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New Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust Patient Recruitment Centre to improve patient access to commercial clinical research

  • Royal Devon and Exeter is one of five hospitals across England chosen to host a new regional Patient Recruitment Centre 
  • The new research centre, part of £7m Government investment, will help people across the region to take part in important late-phase commercial clinical research 
  • Throughout the pandemic, centres will also help local patients take part in cutting edge COVID-19 treatment and vaccine trials

Patients across the South West will benefit from easier access to clinical research opportunities, after the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) was selected as one of five NHS trusts in England to host a new Patient Recruitment Centre (PRC) for late phase commercial clinical research.

The new PRC will enable local patients to take part in late-phase commercial clinical research - studies funded by the life sciences industry - through which participants can access potentially cutting edge new drugs and treatments before they become widely available within the NHS.  

During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the new research centres will also increase opportunities for patients across the region to access trials assessing the latest potential treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

The new centre, which will serve patients across the South West Peninsula is one of five being set up in regions across the country, with a broad geographical reach to ensure that as many patients as possible can benefit. By working closely with local NHS trusts and stakeholders, the centres will provide new opportunities for patients who may not previously have been able to take part in cutting edge clinical studies.

Under the management of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and run locally by RD&E, the new Patient Recruitment Centre will provide dedicated space, purpose-designed facilities and medical expertise to deliver clinical research within a convenient local NHS hospital location - with the aim of increasing the number of studies being run across the region. 

Prof Adrian Harris, Medical Director at the RD&E, said: “We have committed to putting the RD&E at the forefront of medical research in the South West and beyond, and this announcement is a huge boost for the Trust and for our patients who will now gain easier access to cutting edge clinical trials.

“I’m very proud that NIHR has chosen to both benefit from and contribute to the great research work that we are doing here in Devon, at a time when the public are more aware than ever of the urgent importance of rapid discoveries and progress in medical science.”

The five new centres across England have been made possible through a £7 million Government investment as part of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Life Sciences Sector Deal 2, which sets out a series of measures to strengthen the UK environment for clinical research, while ensuring the country is at the forefront of medical science and the development of innovative new treatments for years to come. The centres will increase the NHS’s capacity to deliver vital research for patients, while decreasing the time it takes to set-up late-phase commercial trials within the NHS - improving the UK’s competitiveness in the global market and providing opportunities for patients to benefit from early access to innovation.

Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “I am delighted to see funding awarded to these five centres across England. They will really increase opportunities for patients in the NHS to take part in research, will benefit the NHS  and provide important investment to the country.

“The importance of clinical research has never been more evident than in the COVID-19 pandemic. The NIHR has been able to help fund and to support key research studies and trials into the basis, genetics, prognosis and, critically, to offer potential treatments, including the largest global clinical treatment trial in COVID-19. These centres now give us a further dimension and opportunity to offer large scale trials, for instance in vaccines for COVID-19, and to help deliver those at pace and scale. Looking further, they will help us build on our position as a great country to support life-sciences research.”

“The investment in these new centres will also significantly increase the NHS’s capacity to deliver research - benefiting the UK economy by attracting more life science investment in the UK, while creating jobs and generating income and savings for the NHS trusts who will deliver them - a welcome boost for our country’s health service.”

Case Study - Clive Ritchie

Clive Ritchie has been part of a clinical trial at the RD&E since January. The phase III trial is testing the use of diabetes treatments in cardiac and stroke patients.

Clive attends the medical outpatients department at the RD&E once a month - Clive’s existing conditions make taking blood for tests challenging sometimes, so it’s ideal for him to be able to access the specialist facilities at the hospital.

Under the double-blind conditions of the trial, neither Clive nor Andy Rosser - the research nurse supporting Clive in the study – know whether he is in the half of trial subjects receiving the treatment or a placebo, but Clive thinks taking part is worth it nonetheless:

“I saw the trial advertised in the cardiac unit at the RD&E, and I just wanted to be able to help people with similar conditions in the future.

“Although I don’t know if I’m receiving the treatment or the placebo, being part of the trial and receiving regular tests means my other conditions are being monitored more carefully.

“I feel privileged to be allowed to participate – only 17,000 people worldwide are on this trial, so I’m pleased for myself, but also happy if I can help others.

“I’ve been very well looked after, and I would say the more people who can take part the better – without clinical trials medicine can’t move forward.”