NHS cuts clinical trial bureaucracy

Warrington, United Kingdom - March 6, 2016: Warrington, UK - march 6, 2016: View of the NHS (National Health Service)  logo at the Springfields Medical Centre in the centre of Warrington, Cheshire.

NHS chiefs have introduced new arrangements to fast track clinical trials and improve patients’ access to cutting-edge therapies.

There have been long-standing issues with bureaucracy surrounding clinical trials in the NHS – which is best thought of as a fragmented patchwork of state-funded hospitals and clinics, rather than a single organisation.

Getting hospitals to sign up to multi-site trials can be like herding cats, and the government has already created the Health Research Authority as a single port of call for ethical approval.

While the NHS is seen by pharma as a potential test-bed for new products, it has been held back by internal bureaucracy, which can make setting up large trials an onerous and costly process.

The government is trying to change this in order to attract more R&D investment from big pharma, which will become increasingly important to the economy as the country severs its ties with Europe and its vast research base.

It will also benefit patients by unlocking the NHS’s potential as a research centre for new drugs into diseases such as cancer and dementia.

NHS England, working with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the HRA, and NHS Improvement have introduced new measures to eliminate variation and delays in setting up and reporting commercial contract research.

The new arrangements will standardise the processes to introduce greater certainty and reduce administrative costs for both NHS providers and commercial sponsors for the first time in the NHS.

The processes for reimbursing excess treatment costs in non-commercial research have also been simplified and streamlined, with a single point of access and using existing expertise in the system.

The new processes are part of a 12-point plan to improve clinical research announced in November by NHS England and the NIHR – other goals include increasing GP practice participation in a nationwide patient database, and developing the NHS genomic medicine service.

Dr Sam Roberts, director for innovation and life sciences at NHS England, said: “The NHS has a long history of scientific breakthroughs and, in the NHS’s seventieth year, we are committed to breaking down the barriers clinicians face when trying to set up new research projects.”

“In implementing these new arrangements NHS England are fulfilling the first of our commitments to improve how the NHS supports and applies research. Cutting the current bureaucracy, variation and eliminating delays will increase patient’s access to research and the latest treatments, and support the life sciences industry.”