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NHS failing to promote clinical trials to patients

NIHR mystery shoppers report says 91 per cent of sites have no information in reception area

NIHR mystery shopper report

The NHS is failing to provide patients with information about participating in clinical trials, according to a new report.

The National Institute for Health Research's (NIHR) Clinical Research Network conducted a 'mystery shopper' investigation and found that 91 per cent of the 82 hospital sites it visited did not have any information on clinical research opportunities in the reception area, waiting room or an information board.

Staff knowledge came under fire too, with almost half of reception desks telling the mystery shoppers that they did not do research, or failing to offer suggestions on how patients could take part.

This is despite a commitment on the promotion and conduct of clinical research featuring in the NHS Constitution, which says “the NHS will do all it can to ensure that patients, from every part of England, are made aware of research that is of particular relevance to them”.

Online efforts could also be improved, the NIHR found, with 66 per cent of the websites of all hospital sites visited failing to provide useful information to patients concerning clinical research.

The reality of the situation failed to match patient expectations, according to the NIHR Clinical Research Network's chief executive, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, who referenced polls that demonstrated 82 per cent of the public think it is important for the NHS to offer patients the opportunity to take part in clinical trials and 30 per cent would expect to find information in a reception area.

“We are doing everything we can to address this on the wards and in the surgeries, by working with doctors and nurses and encouraging them to engage with research,” he said.

“But NHS Trust Boards also need to step up to the mark, and make sure that they provide patients with the information they need in order to ask their doctor about research and find out if it is suitable for them.”

The UK's presence in clinical trials has declined in recent years with the emergence of countries, such as India and China, where costs for large scale trials are often lower.

Pharma companies, including Novartis, have recently called for the UK government to do more to make the country a more attractive market for clinical trials, while the Department of Health's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said effective use of NHS data and resources should set the nation apart from other countries.

To support improved NHS efforts, the NIHR says it plans to launch a resource pack for Trusts, which would include materials to help promote research opportunities to patients.

11th January 2013

From: Research, Healthcare

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