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Working with industry is the future of primary care research

You may not be aware but we have recently recruited our millionth participant into primary-care led studies within the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) since 2006. This is an amazing achievement and testament to the hard work of a large number of general practices. Nevertheless going forward some challenges do remain.

The NHS landscape is changing rapidly, particularly with the workload pressures on primary and secondary care and our ageing population. As outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View, in five years’ time the NHS could look very different. It is important that NHS research changes with it and that we, as primary care practitioners, are ahead of the game to ensure we meet the future needs of patients and the public.

Primary care has a unique structure in the NHS in England. This data-rich structure greatly facilitates clinical research recruitment and to date the primary care research community is thriving. But how can we maintain this engagement to ensure patients continue to have access to the latest treatments and medical technologies? The answer is, we must promote the UK to the life sciences industry as the place to do research.

Working with industry has many benefits, it attracts investment, it drives growth, but ultimately, it results in new treatments and medical technologies for patients. We must maintain and strive to increase the level of commercial research activity within the NHS, ensuring there are opportunities to take part across all sectors of healthcare as well as public health and social care.

Over 1,000 English practices are now Research Ready® accredited and 42% research active. The NIHR provides these practitioners with the practical support they need to make research studies happen, so that more research takes place across England, and more patients can take part.

I think it’s important to say that not all general practices would have the capacity to support commercial research. It is quite a commitment and there are a number of practicalities to consider. However, we are now seeing an increase in collaborative working between practices and we encourage this approach, it is a very efficient way of working for sharing expertise and increasing the database of patients available for recruitment.

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