Our vision is to expand this foundation service through future investment to provide new services for public and commercial clinical trials, including: identifying potentially suitable patients (to enable rapid recruitment tailored to patient needs); effective communication with trial participants (providing timely information about the trial and the results); and understanding of key clinical events (allowing comprehensive study of the health effects of different treatments).
The Hub will build on the excellent track record of NHS Digital in the safe management of clinical data and the experience of clinical researchers at the University of Oxford who have used similar approaches in landmark trials of treatments for heart and other major diseases.
The partnership with IBM and Microsoft provides world-class technical expertise in IT systems and large-scale secure data handling.
It is supported by National Institute for Healthcare Research, and the Association of Medical Research Charities, as a key contribution to the UK clinical trials offer.
All access to data will be governed by existing NHS Digital policies and comply with national privacy standards and legislation. The perspectives of clinicians and patients will be sought throughout using best practices established for NHS research.
Once fully established, we anticipate that this Hub will help NHS patients across the length and breadth of England participate in clinical trials of new treatments with additionally much larger numbers taking part in other types of clinical research. The results generated will influence the day-to-day care of millions of future NHS patients with a wide range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.
Hub lead, Professor Martin Landray, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said:
“Clinical trials are essential to understand the safety and efficacy of treatments. By working closely with patients and the NHS, this new Hub seeks to increase opportunities for participation in clinical trials and enhance the quality of the information that they produce. This new digitally-enabled approach will reduce the cost of developing new treatments and improve the quality of information available to patients and their doctors.”
Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital, said:
“Our new ‘NHS DigiTrials’ Hub will enable us to strengthen our support for academic research communities and Life Sciences partners in the extraordinary and vital work they do to develop new treatments. We are very excited about partnering with the Nuffield Department of Population Health in this work, and delighted to have support, and deep technical expertise from Microsoft and IBM.
“As the primary national data custodian for the Health and Care system, NHS Digital’s first and central consideration in all such work is operating within appropriate privacy, security and information management frameworks, and these will guide the design and delivery of this new service.”
Dr Nicole Mather, Life Sciences lead, IBM Global Business Services, UK and Ireland, said:
“IBM is proud to collaborate with partners across health and life sciences bringing digital transformation to research, with the aim of getting more cutting-edge products, more quickly to NHS patients. Working together we have the potential to help change lives and pave the way for new insights by unlocking the power of health data. We will bring deep expertise in digital, technical service design and modelling, data capabilities and programme management to the partnership, collaborating to scale the transformational clinical trials capability developed through innovation from Oxford University and NHS Digital.”
Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK, said:
“Clinical trials are fundamental in developing safe medical treatments but many are hampered by the lack of access to relevant patient information. NHS DigiTrials will transform this process, ensuring healthcare professionals are able to accelerate clinical trials and bring much-needed treatments to market, faster.
“Yet speed alone is not enough. Patients must trust their data is being held securely and only accessed appropriately. The use of Microsoft Azure will ensure all information utilised by NHS DigiTrials is integrated, managed securely and with all appropriate access controls. We are delighted to be involved in what is a great example of a public-private partnership to deliver better patient outcomes.”
Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, Association of Medical Research Charities, said:
“AMRC believes that every patient should be offered the opportunity to be involved in research, so we’re delighted to welcome this new data-driven clinical research feasibility and recruitment service.
“Through the safe and secure management of health information the Hub will help patients across the length and breadth of England participate in clinical trials. We hope this will see more people gain faster access to new treatments.”
Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, CEO, National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN), said:
“The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) CRN funds teams of doctors and nurses to deliver and support patients in Clinical Trials across the NHS. We welcome any initiative which will improve the speed and efficiency of clinical trials whilst giving patients opportunities to access leading edge treatments. The NIHR Clinical Research Network is supporting this service which will speed up the delivery of more studies to patients and improve overall care in the NHS.”
Partners involved in NHS DigiTrials: NHS Digital (lead institution) | University of Oxford | IBM | Microsoft