NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North Thames
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CRN North Thames helps to increase the opportunities for patients to take part in clinical research and supports the government’s strategy for UK life sciences.
It was established in April 2014 as one of 15 networks in the country, and covers south and west Hertfordshire, south Bedfordshire, south west and mid Essex, and north east and north central London, to align with the geography of the UCLPartners Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and NIHR CLAHRC North Thames.
The network provides the infrastructure that allows high-quality clinical research to take place in the NHS, so that patients can benefit from new and better treatments. The CRN helps researchers to set up clinical studies quickly and effectively; supports the life sciences industry to deliver its research programmes; provides health professionals with research training; and works with patients to ensure their needs are at the very centre of all research activity.
The network is hosted by Barts Health NHS Trust, who have appointed a leadership team responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of research in NHS trusts, primary care organisations and other qualified NHS providers throughout the North Thames area.
Since it was established, the NIHR CRN North Thames has helped over 120,000 people take part in research within the region across the full spectrum of conditions, from childhood diseases and genetics, to diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and mental health.
The NIHR CRN North Thames has seven key objectives:
- To increase the number of people taking part in NIHR studies
- To increase the proportion of studies delivering to recruitment targets on time
- To increase the number of commercial studies delivered through the network
- To reduce the time taken to set up studies in the NHS
- To reduce the time taken to recruit the first patient (a key milestone) into NIHR studies
- To increase NHS participation in NIHR studies
- To increase the number of people taking part in dementia and neurodegeneration studies
At UCLPartners, we are committed to maximising the involvement of the population in clinical trials. By bringing together the CRN North Thames with the Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC), the CLAHRC North Thames and UCLPartners’ role as a Prime Site for Quintiles studies, we are increasing access to potential innovative new treatments to over six million people.
Our partners open approximately 800 trials per year and ~25% of all commercial studies in England have a chief investigator from within the partnership.
Case study: Speeding the process for approving studies in the NHS
The harmonisation project was launched by the pilot NIHR Local Clinical Research Network (LCRN) to introduce a single process across all of our member organisations for approving clinical trials in NHS hospitals. Previously, separate approval was required from each hospital, which duplicated work and caused considerable delays in getting studies off the ground. The new process requires only a single approval for a number of members of UCLPartners, including one costing, one contract, one pharmacy and one medical exposure review. This allows commercial organisations to open more sites at the same time, thereby opening up their research to a wider population. This means that more patients are able to take part in essential research and have access to treatments that are not yet available through standard care.
Since it started in October 2012, the harmonisation project has reduced the NHS approvals time across our partnership significantly. Based on national data 85% of studies initiated within the LCRN region in 2015/16 were approved within the NHS key performance indicator target of 30 days.
The success of the harmonisation project has resulted in multiple commercial sponsors stating that they will return to our partnership and open more research sites for studies in the future.
Follow NIHR CRN North Thames on Twitter @NIHRCRN_nthames