While some National Health Service Trusts in England are engaging forcefully with the clinical research agenda promoted by government, the NHS and organisations such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), there remain broad disparities across the region in terms of study participation and the number of patients recruited, NIHR data show.

The NIHR’s Clinical Research Network has for the first time published a league table detailing research activity undertaken by individual NHS Trusts in England during the Institute’s last final year.

Although the data reveal that 97% of NHS Trusts participated in research during 2010/11, the number of studies delivered by these Trusts ranged from 322 right down to one, and the number of patients recruited from 69,260 to a single participant (four Trusts).

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust was listed as being involved in eight research studies but with no patients recruited during 2010/11. However, the recruitment figure was incorrect and should have included 697 patients in total.

The leading Trust in terms of the number of research studies supported was Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust with 322 studies, closely followed by The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with 321. These two Trusts recruited 11,660 and 11,296 patients respectively during the financial year.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was by a long way the number one Trust for recruiting patients, with 69,260 registered in 2010/11. The nearest contender was University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, with 21,476 patients recruited for 86 studies.

Far from representative

Looking at study volumes, the figures recorded in Leeds and Newcastle were far from representative.

For example, of the 398 NHS Trusts included in the NIHR league table, just 89 (22.4%) were involved in 50 or more research studies during 2010/11. And of those Trusts that did recruit patients for research studies, 182 (46.7%) had fewer than 20 patients taking part.

That more than half a million patients in total were recruited to research studies through NHS organisations in England during 2010/11 was a “fantastic achievement”, said Dr Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network.

There was growing evidence, he added, that research-active NHS organisations “appear to do better in overall performance”, and that an organisation’s research activity was linked to improved patient outcomes.

However, the league table also “shows that we still need to do more to put research on the radar in some areas of the NHS”, Sheffield warned.

Want the chance

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser to the Department of Health, cited a recent MORI poll indicating that 72% of people would want to be offered the chance of taking part in a clinical trial if they had a health condition that was affecting their daily life.

“We need all Trusts to look at how they can increase the opportunities for patients to take part in research,” she commented.

The top five Trusts (1-5) in terms of study volume were: Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust; Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust; and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

 The top five Trusts for patient recruitment were Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust; Southampton University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust.