Date: 18 July 2018
The number of NHS research studies in Berkshire supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has risen, new figures show.
In 2017/18, there were 103 NIHR-supported studies at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust involving 4,956 people, compared to 95 the previous year.
At Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, 45 studies involving 1,436 participants took place in 2017/18, up from 35 the previous year.
The trust ranked seventh among NHS mental health trusts in England for the number of studies supported by the NIHR.
A further 53 studies involving 1,555 people took place in Berkshire’s GP practices.
The NHS supports research by asking patients and healthy volunteers if they wish to take part in trials to enable participants to access new NHS treatment and care options.
Among those who participated in research at the Royal Berkshire Hospital is Sam Jones (pictured), a student at the University of Reading, who wore a portable device to treat his collapsed lung.
This occurs when air from the lung builds up behind the rib cage which can cause pain and difficulty breathing.
In the ‘Randomised Ambulatory Management of Primary Pneumothorax’ (RAMPP) study, a small hole is cut in the chest where a tube is inserted and attached to a device to re-inflate the lung through drawing air from behind the rib cage. The device attaches to the chest and patients can wear it outside of hospital.
This is compared to standard care which involves drawing air out of the chest with a syringe at hospital.
If this does not fully re-expand the lung then patients will require a chest drain, where a flexible plastic tube is inserted through the chest wall and into the build up of air behind the rib cage. This can require several days in hospital.
Patients who choose to take part are randomly allocated to receive the portable device or standard care, to compare the two.
Mr Jones, 21, of Reading, enrolled on the University of Oxford study in April after experiencing chest pains since December.
He said: “I had chest pains and breathlessness. It didn’t come on suddenly, it was sporadic. One week it would be painful and the next it would be fine.
“It was like a stabbing pain localised to the left side of my chest and shoulder. It would come on spontaneously and last an hour or so.
“I felt a sense of panic going on and I thought it was a problem with my heart because I also experienced palpitations.”
After an x-ray revealed a collapsed lung, Mr Jones stayed overnight at the hospital and was told about the study the next morning.
He said: “A research nurse saw me to describe a portable device they were trialling as an alternative treatment and I immediately thought it sounded better than standard care as you’re allowed to go home.
“I had the device for two nights, whereas some people are in hospital for three or more days.”
He said: “I had a 50-50 chance of getting the device, and I was fortunate enough to be able to get it, so I’m definitely glad I made the decision to take part in research.
“Less than week after having the device removed I was feeling better and back to my usual freedom in terms of movement.
“I’m definitely a lot healthier than before and able to exercise a few times a week.”
Atul Kapila, Research and Development Director and Consultant Anaesthetist at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust has a strong research culture and believes that promoting, conducting and using clinical research is vital for improving treatments for patients. We are one of the most research active district general hospitals in the country and one of the top recruiters of patients into trials, and are delighted our research activity continues to grow.
“We work hard to make sure that patients know we are a research active organisation and that they are offered an opportunity to participate in a research study if they are eligible and want to do so.
“Building and developing opportunities for collaborative working with research partners is vital to support the delivery of research programmes that are clinically relevant to our local population, along with nurturing existing areas of research excellence and the opportunities these provide to develop new research across the trust.”
Dr Gwen Bonner, Clinical Director for Research at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are pleased to have increased our participation in these research opportunities. Growing our understanding of the causes, prevention and treatment of illness through research allows us to make real improvements in people’s lives. We’ve recently celebrated 70 years of the NHS, and research will play a key part in driving heath advancements in the NHS over the next 70 years.
“We have strong partnerships with research colleagues in other organisations and we will continue to work with them to make these medical breakthroughs.”
Prof Belinda Lennox, Clinical Director for the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands, said: “The Thames Valley is leading the way in delivering life saving research in the NHS. These league table results show the huge range of research studies that are being undertaken across our region in GP practices and in hospitals across our region.
“Over 40,000 people have taken part in NHS research in the Thames Valley over the last year, all of them helping to increase our understanding of illness and develop the treatments of the future. As the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday, public participation in research is helping the health service develop and strengthen for the future.”
The NIHR Research Activity League Table data, which includes how much clinical research is happening, where, in what types of trusts, and involving how many patients, can be found on the NIHR website at https://www.nihr.ac.uk/research-and-impact/nhs-research-performance/league-tables/.