NHS DigiTrials uses routinely collected NHS data to cut the time, effort and cost of developing new drugs, treatments and services, bringing benefits to patients, the public and the health services. Its work to provide data services for clinical trials during COVID has underlined the benefits of using NHS data for clinical trials. Also, a strong emphasis on patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) has both enhanced the team’s own work and strengthened trust in data sharing. All these factors led to NHS DigiTrials being shortlisted for the HDR UK Team of the Year Award.
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In the past year the team’s focus has been on supporting COVID-19 clinical trials. The impact has been significant – contributing data and data services for a range of projects including ones that resulted in the:
Discovery of three successful treatments – Dexamethasone, Tocilizumab and Budesonide
Development of three effective vaccines – Oxford-AZ, Novavax and Janssen.
Timely recruitment of trial volunteers, including more than doubling recruitment rates for the PRINCIPLE Trial.
Discovery of genes which increase susceptibility to life-threatening COVID-19
Creation of a novel dataset allowing the analysis of household transmission.
“There is huge potential benefit in using the data the NHS collects from patients. Used well with transparency and openness data saves lives.”
A collaborative, multi-disciplinary “team science” approach, an emphasis on diversity and a strong customer focus have been crucial to the success of DigiTrials. Formed in 2019 NHS DigiTrials was established as an HDR UK hub for clinical trials and has a core team of around 30. The wider consortium involves the University of Oxford, IBM and Microsoft.
The service delivery team brought together expertise in data production, data access, technical development squads, communications, legal/commercial, information governance and finance. Members include clinical trialists, data specialists, a service designer, programme and business management.
Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement
NHS DigiTrials has a PPIE Co-Development Panel that is ethnically and geographically diverse. Its members have an age range spanning 40 years and include people with physical and mental health conditions, disabilities and carer experience.
Patients and public representatives are embedded in the NHS DigiTrials team, so they are directly involved with key discussions and can raise issues with researchers directly.
One panel member said:
“I have worked with a dozen or more organisations during my 14 years of patient involvement. I have been amazed at the unrivalled work ethic, flexibility, commitment and inclusivity of the DigiTrials team.”
Although COVID-19 response remains a prime focus NHS DigiTrials is increasingly working with other trials and is developing a range of data services to support them.
NHS DigiTrials is committed to open science. It has significantly improved the findability of data through the publication of clear, detailed metadata for a range of prioritised data sets on the HDR UK Innovation Gateway.