Research and clinical trials are an everyday part of the NHS. The people who do research are mostly the same doctors and other health professionals who treat people. They want to find better ways of looking after patients and keeping people healthy. Health research covers a range of activities, from work in a scientific laboratory to carefully noting patterns of health and disease and developing new treatments. You can find out more information about the types of research information on the NHS Choices web site.
Why do research?
People being cared for in the NHS today benefit from research that has taken place and continue to benefit from research being carried out now.
Health professionals know a lot about health, disease and medicines, but there is much more that is uncertain. Research provides answers to these uncertainties, filling gaps in knowledge and changing the way health professionals work. This means treatment and care is improved for you, which can save lives and add to quality of life.
Where is research done?
There is a huge range of different types of research into health and disease. While a lot of it takes place in every part of the NHS, some of it takes place in universities and research institutes, in social care services, or in the private sector. However the research is funded, the people who take part in it are always protected in the same way. You can find more information on this on the NHS Choices web site.
If you are asked, or if you wish to become involved in research you should be told who is funding it. When research is published, it is normal to declare who funded it.
What is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is a particular type of research that tests one treatment against another. It may involve either patients or people in good health, or both. Small studies produce less reliable results so studies often have to be carried out on a large number of people before the results are considered reliable.
Why are clinical trials important?
Doctors and other health professionals and patients need evidence from clinical trials to know which treatments work best. Without this evidence, there is a risk that people could be given treatments that have no advantage, that waste NHS resources and that might even be harmful.
Therefore, clinical trials find out:
- if treatments are safe
- if treatments have any side effects
- if new treatments are better than available standard treatments
Clinical trials can help to:
- prevent illnesses by testing a vaccine
- detect or diagnose illnesses by testing a scan or blood test
- treat illnesses by testing a new medicine
- provide treatments in the best way for finding out how best to help people with their illness
- help people control their illness or improve their quality of life by testing how a particular diet affects a condition
Trials stick to a set of rules (called a protocol) to ensure that they are as safe as possible for the people taking part, that they measure the right things in the right way and that the results are correct. The full protocol forms part of the data in a UKCTG search.
A lot of clinical trials are designed to show whether new medicines work as planned. These results are sent to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA); which then decides whether to allow the company making the medicine to sell it.
If you are considering taking part in research you may like to visit the Healthtalkonline website where you can hear about the experiences of people who have already taken part in research.
You can find much more information about Research and Clinical Trials on the NHS Choices website. You can also find a range of links to a variety of useful resources.