GPs may receive financial incentives to trial experimental drugs with patients, as part of a Government bid to boost commercial clinical trials in the UK.
A review by Lord O’Shaughnessy, published yesterday, argued that ‘primary care is a negligible provider of clinical trials activity’ and that doctors lack incentives to take part in commercially-funded research.
The report therefore urged the Government to provide financial incentives to GPs, set up primary care research networks, and allow all GPs to apply for Clinical Impact Awards.
One suggested mechanism for delivering financial incentives to GPs was via the QOF, or equivalent schemes in devolved nations.
The Government’s response welcomed all of Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations, committing £121m to fund five ‘upfront commitments’ which will begin implementation immediately.
Those five commitments did not specifically address primary care, however they included pledges to ‘establish a common approach to contacting patients to take part in research’ and to ‘identify whether legislation is needed to establish clinical research as part of direct care’.
The review was commissioned in February to put forward ideas on how to boost commercial clinical trials activity in the UK, which has seen falling numbers of patients enrolling and trials initiated in recent years.
Lord O’Shaughnessy argued that NHS bodies carrying out research tend ‘to provide better health outcomes for their patients’.
He also said the reduction in commercial activity costs the taxpayer, since the near halving of patients recruited to commercial research in the NHS over the last five years has cost around £360m.
Currently, around 10% of clinical research activity takes place in primary care and 4% of GP practices are recruiting patients to commercial trials, according to the review.
Lord O’Shaughnessy said primary care provides opportunities ‘for delivering population-scale trials’ and at the moment there is ‘too much reliance on hospital settings’.
The review said: ‘National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and equivalent funding in the devolved governments should be used to create a network of primary care clinical trial networks to enable new forms of trial activity that are closer to the patient and increase opportunities for marginalised communities to take part in research.’
Health secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘This investment is another significant step in harnessing UK innovation to help cut waiting lists – one of the government’s five priorities – and build a stronger NHS.
‘We will take forward Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations to speed up the delivery of clinical trials and boost patient involvement in research, so people getting NHS care can benefit from cutting-edge treatments faster, supported by £121 million in government funding.’
The pilot was due to begin in five GP practices in early 2023, but it will now begin from next month.