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Research opportunities in South West increasing as more than 30,000 people volunteer for health and care studies

Decorative - CRN annual recruitment stats for 2022/23

Participation in health and care research in the South West continues to grow compared to before the pandemic, new figures from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) show.

The latest annual statistics show 30,367 people volunteered to take part in health and care studies across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset in the last year (2022/23). The figure for 2019/20, the last full year before COVID-19 struck, was 24,310.

The increase is thanks to the huge efforts of research staff and NIHR CRN South West Peninsula (SWP) partner organisations to recover from the upheaval of the pandemic, as well as the commitment of the thousands of members of the public who volunteered to take part in studies.

Nationally, almost one million participants across England took part in NIHR CRN supported research in 2022/23, an increase of more than 220,000 on pre-pandemic levels.

In the South West, all nine NHS trusts recruited to NIHR CRN Portfolio studies in every quarter last year. The region also continued to perform strongly in delivering research outside these settings, with almost half (48%, or 116/243) of GP practices recruiting participants to NIHR CRN Portfolio study research. The South West also saw year-on-year increases in recruitment in care homes, hospices, schools, universities and local authorities - reward for the work by the CRN SWP to support research in a wider range of settings outside the NHS.

The data also show commercial research flourishing in the South West, making up 122 out of a total of 598 studies recruiting in the region last year.

Professor Michael Gibbons, CRN SWP Clinical Director said: “These figures show that as a region we are recovering from the pandemic successfully in research terms, and making a broad range of research opportunities available across many different settings within and outside the NHS. As a result, more people are able to benefit from taking part in research, and our knowledge of different illnesses and possible treatments grows. 

“Our increasing recruitment is testament to the hard work of our teams across the region, in what have been at times difficult circumstances. It is fantastic to see that effort reflected in these figures, and our thanks go to all the health and care organisations, their staff and patients that have contributed to the region’s continuing success.”

Mike Visick, CRN SWP Chief Operating Officer, said: “This year’s numbers show that what we are doing in terms of encouraging non-NHS settings to get involved in research is paying off. We have seen significant increases in recruitment in places such as schools, care homes and local authorities.

“It is our mission to make health and care research available to as many people as possible in the South West. We want to create equity of access to research across the region, offering even more participation opportunities to the communities we serve, particularly where they are needed most. In doing so, we increase the number of trials available to our population, and ultimately increase the treatment options available to our clinicians.

“Thank you to everyone who participated in and delivered research across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset last year.”

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said: “The best health and care research requires a number of important elements to come together: world-class researchers, cutting-edge facilities and the generous participation of the public.

“As we celebrate 75 years of our amazing NHS, today’s announcement reminds us that all three elements are firmly in place in this country, and that the UK as a whole remains one of the best places in the world to undertake clinical trials.

“We are so grateful for the continuing support of the many people who take part in research to help shape our future health and care. Thank you to everyone who has done so this year, and I hope even more people will be part of research in the future.”

Commenting on this year’s figures, John Sitzia, Acting Chief Executive of the NIHR CRN said: “Thank you to the many incredible people across England who have given their time to improve health and social care for themselves and others.

“The benefits that clinical research brings are profound, ultimately leading to the prevention of ill health, earlier diagnosis, faster recovery and better outcomes.

“There are opportunities for everyone to take part in research. The new health and care research ‘match-making’ service from Be Part of Research makes it easier than ever for people to find health and care research across every part of the country.”

Be Part of Research

Since July 2022 over 150,000 research volunteers have signed up to the new Be Part of Research service. Increasing the number of people taking part in clinical research is vital to help researchers find cures, treatments and breakthroughs.

As we celebrate the NHS 75th birthday on 5 July 2023, the NIHR is calling on people to join its Shape the Future campaign to help shape the NHS of the future through supporting and participating in research studies.

Be Part of Research Service helps people to easily find and take part in studies across the UK.

Register to take part in research in your area at: