New clinical trial management software developed within the National Health Service for use in the NHS could be a lynchpin in delivering the goals of the UK government’s Best Research for Best Health strategy, its makers believe.

The EDGE platform that will be officially launched this week at the Association of British Healthcare Industries annual conference in London is being touted as the first software solution of its kind with the potential for implementation not only across individual NHS trusts or research networks but throughout the health service as a single system.

Already trialled at a number of sites around England, the EDGE system is the brainchild of James Batchelor and David Miller, respectively head of ICT (information and communications technology) and lead analyst at the Central South Coast Cancer Research Network. The network is run from the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre at the University of Southampton, in collaboration with Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Addressing the challenge of collating, cleansing and reporting huge volumes of complex research data, Batchelor and Miller developed their first clinical trial management system, NOTIS, in 2001, specifically for use across the Central South Coast Cancer Research Network. Five years later they launched a refined version, ETIS (Enterprise Trials Information Systems) with the capability for application to all types of trials.

The EDGE system allows any research professional involved in a clinical study to access detailed real-time data on the trial’s progress from any location via a secure web interface. The software “negates the need for teams of data analysts in trust research and development departments to ‘number crunch’”, James commented. “It enables research nurses and other clinicians involved in trials to input directly participant accrual information and record use of time and resources.”

This means trial co-ordinators at network level can draw up reports on patient recruitment “at the touch of a button” while executive teams can ensure studies are properly resourced and receive the right level of funding, he noted.

NHS Innovations South East (NISE) supported the development of EDGE by assessing its commercial feasibility, working up a business case for the system, formalising contracts, advising on intellectual property issues and launching EDGE as a commercial entity.

Dr John Stedman, chief executive of NISE, said: “If we are to improve and streamline research management and governance, then a robust, cost-effective IT solution that enables NHS trusts and research networks to manage trials more effectively, and meet their financial and performance reporting obligations more efficiently, has to be a huge step forward in delivering the government’s vision of a vibrant health research system.”

That this solution was developed within the NHS “is even better news and chimes well with [Health Minister] Lord Ara Darzi’s view that the NHS must focus more on facilitating innovation”, Steadman added.

Best Research for Best Health was the five-year strategy published by the government in January 2006 with the aim of restoring the UK as a world leader in clinical research.