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NIHR salutes TrialBlazers in the North East and North Cumbria in new campaign to take part in health and care research

56,767 participants across the North East and North Cumbria volunteered to take part in clinical research trials in 2021/22, new figures reveal as people across the country are urged in a new campaign to take part in research which could one day save lives.

To coincide with the International Clinical Trials Day today (20 May), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has launched TrialBlazers - a campaign that recognises the life-changing contribution already made to health and care research by the people of the North East and North Cumbria.

The NIHR is also calling on people across the region to be a TrialBlazer and help save even more lives by taking part in research trials in their local area. There are clinical research trials - on everything from COVID-19 to cancer and diabetes - in need of volunteers right now.

The treatment and support those living with a disease or a health condition receive to help manage their illness or keep them alive is made possible by research. Anyone of any age can join the TrialBlazers and learn more about a condition which may affect them or loved ones, or to simply support health and care research.

TrialBlazer Mike, a 30-year-old project manager from Newcastle, took part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial at the North Tyneside General Hospital at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: “I first found out about the trial through a friend who had also signed up. I have been interested in clinical research since university, but did not have the time or the opportunity to participate in any trials at the time. When I heard about this vaccine study, COVID-19 was severely impacting all of our lives and I wanted to do my part and help the cause in any way I could. Taking part in research meant that I could help other people by contributing to research into a new COVID-19 vaccine, and it had the added benefit that I was able to receive a jab earlier than I normally would have.

“I attended five appointments over the course of about a year. I received a jab at two of them and had three follow-up appointments where the nurses took blood samples, made sure I was okay and chatted through any symptoms. In my case, I only had a bit of arm swelling, which was normal. I saw the same nurse at each appointment and got to know her quite well. The research team was very good at keeping in touch via email and telephone and they were quick to respond whenever I had questions.

“For me, the process was easy and the team was accommodating about fitting the appointments around my work schedule. The whole trial was really well executed and was a positive experience for me.”

Professor Caroline Wroe, Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria, said: “The more people take part in research, the more people benefit from new treatments, improved services and better care. We really rely on TrialBlazers like Mike - without them, health and care research simply wouldn’t happen. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has participated in research over the past year. Your time and input is greatly valued and appreciated.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “The UK is a world-leader in ground-breaking research. I’m determined to continue building on this innovation to transform our health service and ensure the NHS is able to deliver world-class care for patients.

“I am proud and grateful to every single person, who has taken part in research so far, particularly during the pandemic. Clinical research has been vital in our fight against Covid. It has saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the UK and around the world – whether through the rapid creation of vaccines or the identification of life-saving treatments like dexamethasone – and I encourage everyone to look at what role they can play in the future of health research."

How to get involved

Members of the public can support medical research for a particular condition or disease that they care about, access new treatments or learn more about a condition that affects them. They can volunteer for a trial by visiting the Be Part of Research website and searching by location or condition.