The government has announced a £7 million investment to launch five new regional Patient Recruitment Centres (PRCs) across England, to help more patients access late-stage clinical research.

The centres – at NHS trusts in Blackpool, Bradford, Exeter, Newcastle upon Tyne and Leicester – are distributed across the country to provide opportunities for patients in regions across England who may not previously have been able to take part in cutting edge clinical studies.

The new centres are also to increase opportunities for patients to access trials assessing the latest potential treatments against COVID-19 amid the current pandemic, as well for studies across all other healthcare specialties.

The sites will be managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and run by NHS trusts.

According to the government, the move forms part of its Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Life Sciences Sector Deal 2, which strives to strengthen the UK environment for clinical research and enable growth within the sector, while ensuring the country 'is at the forefront of medical science and the development of innovative new treatments for years to come'.

“The centres will increase the NHS’s capacity to deliver vital research for patients, while decreasing the time it takes to set-up late-phase commercial trials within the NHS - improving the UK’s competitiveness in the global market and providing opportunities for patients to benefit from early access to innovation.”

“The importance of clinical research has never been more evident than in the COVID-19 pandemic. The NIHR has been able to help fund and to support key research studies and trials into the basis, genetics, prognosis and, critically, to offer potential treatments, including the largest global clinical treatment trial in COVID-19. These centres now give us a further dimension and opportunity to offer large scale trials, for instance in treatments for COVID-19, and to help deliver those at pace and scale. Looking further, they will help us build on our position as a great country to support life-sciences research,” noted Dr William van’t Hoff, chief executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network.

“The investment in these new centres will also significantly increase the NHS’s capacity to deliver research - benefiting the UK economy by attracting more life science investment in the UK, while creating jobs and generating income and savings for the NHS trusts who will deliver them - a welcome boost for our country’s health service.”