NHS delays causing clinical research expertise to exit UK
23 February 2010
Delays and variability in the approvals process in the NHS for
clinical research could be causing pharmaceutical companies to look
outside the UK and risks the country losing some of its most experienced
researchers, according to new research from Warwick Business School and
Queen Mary, University of London.
The two-year study focused on identifying the key social,
organisational and managerial factors that influence clinical
research projects in the UK. In the first study of its kind, the
researchers carried out a national survey in which they interviewed
key stakeholders and surveyed 247 clinical research projects about
the challenges of managing clinical research.
The study found that although patient recruitment was and remains
a major challenge, retaining the project team was seen as critical
to the ongoing success of clinical research and that this was
becoming increasingly difficult.
Additionally the research found that retaining the research team
throughout the project was significantly hampered by aspects of the
approval process; projects which had been approved by the regulatory
bodies often then encountered difficulty in obtaining approval from
NHS hospital trusts and that there was huge variation in both the
time and requirements needed to gain approval from these trusts.
Professor Jacky Swan of Warwick Business School commented, “The
problem is that to commercial organisations, time is very important
and although many are committed to carrying out clinical research in
this country, many are finding it easier to do this research abroad
and that does have long term and significant implications for high
quality research in the UK and also for the retention of skilled
Additionally, Professor Swan stressed that the
inconsistencies and lengthiness of the approvals processes has a
detrimental effect on the completion rates of non-commercial
“There are three elements of approval: regulation, ethics, and
research and development and although there has been improvement in
regulation and there have been efforts to streamline the R&D
process, these are not happening quickly enough to have a positive
impact,” she added.
"Far more policy attention is needed to address these problems,
especially around the skills shortages that are emerging and aspects
of the NHS culture which are making it very difficult to conduct the
innovative, world-leading clinical research that the UK has always
been known for," added Maxine Robertson, Professor of Innovation and
Organisation at Queen Mary, University of London.
The majority of the 247 research projects in this study were
projects which had been carried out in the last two years. The
length of time each took to receive approval included the time for
preparation of submissions and not simply the time from submission