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Patient recruitment centre honoured to win the Bright Ideas in Health Awards Research Impact Award for virtual trial success

celebration PRC

NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre (PRC): Newcastle is celebrating after winning a Bright Ideas in Health Award in the Research Impact category for the RELIEVE IBS-D virtual trial in partnership with EnteroMed Ltd.

The Research Impact Award category is for any research team of an NIHR Portfolio study that has demonstrated innovation in the way a study has been delivered during the pandemic across the North East and North Cumbria.

The win was thanks to successful collaboration between EnteroMed Ltd and the Newcastle PRC who together delivered the RELIEVE IBS-D virtual trial.

The collaboration led to rapid recruitment to one of the first fully virtual interventional clinical trials to be conducted in England. 

Virtual trials are remote access trials which use digital technology to allow recruitment to, and delivery of, clinical trials without the patient needing to visit a recruiting site - which could be miles from their home. This reduces risk in a pandemic environment and, equally importantly, empowers more patients to become involved regardless of their geography.

This has been a ground-breaking achievement for the NHS and could help to shape the future of research design and delivery, enabling more patients to access research opportunities and ensuring the UK is in a strong position to compete in the global research landscape.

Delivering the trial virtually enabled us to recruit participants from across the UK, from near Inverness to Penzance, and from Northern Ireland in the west to East Norfolk in the East. This recruitment would not have been possible if we had not been able to recruit virtually. 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic condition and causes much suffering, but the treatments for it are limited. We were determined to trial this new treatment and, despite the challenges, were able to do so because of three key factors: strong collaboration, a willingness to innovate and a keenness to listen to our patients.

Professor Yan Yiannakou, Clinical Director at NIHR PRC: Newcastle said: “I am delighted to win a Bright Ideas in Health Awards for the work we have done to deliver the RELIEVE IBS-D virtual trial. This was a team effort and I want to thank the whole team at the PRC: Newcastle for their efforts, as well as Enteromed Ltd, who allowed us to innovate and worked with us.

“This milestone in NHS capability was not reached in a single step, but was a journey supported by several collaborations over several years and I want to especially recognise the support from NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria and The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research informatics team.”  

William van't Hoff, Chief Executive Officer at NIHR Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre said: “Congratulations to NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre: Newcastle and commercial sponsor Enteromed. This award is well deserved and recognises how strong collaborations - with patients, the sponsor and the clinical team - can develop innovative ideas into new approaches that really make a difference. 

“The design and delivery of the virtual version of the RELIEVE IBS-D trial is efficient, effective and patient centric and has become a pathfinding study which I am sure will inspire and encourage further innovation across our research landscape. 

“I am also thrilled that this award for innovation has been achieved by one of our national Patient Recruitment Centres (PRCs) which are 100% dedicated to delivering commercial clinical research and a key feature of their design is to provide a testbed for innovation. This ability to innovate and adapt is going to serve the UK well as we explore new opportunities in research delivery."