A newly streamlined version of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN), whose geographical boundaries correlate with those of the influential Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), is now in operation across England.

The Department of Health (DH) announced last September the 15 National Health Service Trusts and Foundation Trusts in England that would host local branches of the NIHR CRN from 1 April 2014.

Operating under five-year contracts from the DH, these host organisations are responsible for executing the Network’s remit at local level while distributing, collectively, £280 million of NIHR funding per year to support the delivery of clinical-research studies in their area. 

Previously the NIHR CRN comprised 102 overlapping local networks, each supporting clinical studies in different therapy areas or parts of the service.

This structure has now been rationalised into 15 local Clinical Research Networks, which will deliver studies across all therapy areas.

Their remit will remain separate from those of the AHSNs, although clearly there are synergies and opportunities for fruitful collaboration between the respective networks.

As part of the restructuring process, the NIHR CRN has appointed new chief operating officers and clinical directors for each of the 15 Networks.

The 15 NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts appointed as local hosts were:

  • Barts Health NHS Trust (host for the Clinical Research Network in the North Thames area).                                                         
  • Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Greater Manchester).                                                         
  • Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (South London).
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (North West London).
  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Eastern England).
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (Thames Valley and South Midlands).
  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (South West Peninsula).
  • Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (North West Coast).
  • Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Kent, Surrey and Sussex).
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Yorkshire and Humber).
  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (North East and North Cumbria).
  • The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (West Midlands).
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (Wessex).
  • University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust (West of England).
  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (East Midlands).

Significant changes

“Over the last year we have seen significant changes in both the NHS environment, and in the nature of research studies,” commented Dr Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network.

“It was important for the Network to evolve, so we can continue to provide the flexible infrastructure the research community needs to conduct clinical studies efficiently in the NHS.”