Manchester has more people taking part in clinical research through the National Health Service than just about anywhere else in the UK, new figures show.

According to the latest data from the Greater Manchester Comprehensive Local Research Network (CLRN), part of the National Institute for Health Research’s wider Clinical Research Network, more than 21,000 patients across Manchester were recruited to clinical trials between 1 April (the start of the NIHR’s financial year) and 8 November 2010.

That was 700 more than the CLRN for Central & East London, which was the top performer in terms of patients recruited for the period from 1 April to 11 October 2010. The latest figures put the Central & East London CLRN in third place, with only London North West recruiting more patients than Greater Manchester in the period to 8 November 2010.

Taking the data up to 15 November, a total of 22,232 patients have taken part in NHS clinical research in the Greater Manchester area since 1 April. That compares with 31,324 participants in the whole of the financial year from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010, and 15,443 participants in the financial year from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009.

The latter figure excludes the high-recruiting MAVARIC screening study for cervical cancer, which skewed the data for the 2008/09 financial year. The MAVARIC study adds another 36,410 participants, giving a total recruitment figure of 51,853 for 2008/09.

In terms of the number of studies running in the Manchester CLRN, there were 433 listed between 1 April and 15 November 2010, 491 for the 2009/10 financial year and 397 for the 2008/09 financial year. ‘Listed’ includes all activity status, so the trials could be open, closed – in follow-up, closed – follow-up complete, in set-up, or suspended. This means some longer studies will overlap from one financial year to the next.

As far as industry versus non-commercial trials goes, there have been 759 clinical studies in the Greater Manchester CLRN since 1 April 2008, of which 99 were commercial and 660 non-commercial.

Looking at the therapeutic areas in which patients have been recruited to clinical trials in Greater Manchester, cancer was far and away the leading recruitment category during April-November 2010, in line with national trends.

A total of 12,864 cancer patients took part in NHS clinical research, compared with 1,476 patients for primary care studies; 1,299 for mental health; 990 for renal disease; 725 for reproductive conditions; 700 for diabetes; 642 for respiratory diseases; 584 for cardiovascular diseases; 428 for musculoskeletal conditions; 400 for neurological diseases; 358 for paediatric non-medicines research (PNMR), 348 for genetics studies; and 1,194 for nine other categories.

Exemplar impact

Paul Thorpe, head of communications at Greater Manchester CLRN, said the North West Exemplar Programme had been “very much” a driving force behind trial participation in the Manchester area.

A banner initiative of the National Institute for Health Research/NHS Biopharmaceutical Industry R&D Leadership Forum, the Exemplar Programme aimed to show what could be achieved when the NIHR Clinical Research Network, the NHS and the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industries worked together closely on study set-up and delivery.

In broader terms, Thorpe noted, the principal drivers behind recruitment in the Greater Manchester CLRN have been:

• Increasing the proportion of NIHR Portfolio studies that deliver in line with the study's planned delivery time and patient recruitment targets.       

 • Doubling the number of participants recruited into studies on the Greater Manchester CLRN Portfolio.    

• Reducing the time it takes to get NHS permission for a study to start.   

• Reducing the time it takes to recruit the first participant in Portfolio studies.   

•  Boosting the number of life-sciences studies on the Greater Manchester CLRN Portfolio.            

•  Increasing the percentage of NHS Trusts involved in delivering the Portfolio.

“We are trying to make it possible for more and more people to be offered the chance to take part [in NHS research] by putting in the resources to help run research across the whole city,” commented Professor Martin Gibson, director of the Great6er Manchester Comprehensive Local Research Network. “The more successful we are, the healthier we’ll all become.”