Huge increase in health service research activity

Peter Atterbury, 71, from Hunstanton, North Norfolk, who recently took part in the Barrett’s ESophag

Peter Atterbury, 71, from Hunstanton, North Norfolk, who recently took part in the Barrett’s ESophagus Trial (BEST3). Photo: NIHR - Credit: NIHR

NHS trusts in the east have seen a huge increase in research activity to find potential cutting-edge treatments in the last year, according to new figures.

The annual NHS Research Activity League Table, released last week, showed a 67pc increase in research activity in the eastern region in comparison to a national increase of 53pc.

The table provides a picture of how much clinical research is happening in which NHS organisations, and involving how many patients.

This year's figures, which cover the 12 month period between April 2017 and March 2018, suggest that health research is thriving across the country and the NHS continues to be seen as a good place to deliver high quality clinical trials.

The region's achievements include North Norfolk clinical commissioning group reaching the country's top 10 for most studies supported and biggest increase in participants enrolled via a GP, going from 512 to 1,454 people getting involved.

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One participant was Peter Atterbury, 71, from Hunstanton, who recently took part in the Barrett's ESophagus Trial (BEST3).

BEST3 is a major cancer study that is currently taking place and is led by researchers at MRC Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge.

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The study tests a new method for detecting Barrett's Oesophagus, a condition which can indicate a higher risk of cancer.

The trial involves testing a new sponge device called a cytosponge which is attached to a string and is swallowed by the patient. In pulling the sponge out cells can be collected from the oesophagus, or food pipe, which can then be investigated.

The hopes are that it will revolutionise the way we test for Barrett's Oesophagus in the future.

Mr Atterbury said: 'I've had nothing but first class help from the health service, so when something like this is asked - you know 'can you help?' - I'm only too happy to do it. I suppose I see it as some way of paying them back and it is enjoyable in lots of ways because you feel like you are doing something.'

Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, chief executive officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) said: 'Health research is the key to finding new and innovative cures, treatments and care for patients. Evidence also shows research active organisations consistently deliver better outcomes to all patients they treat, not just those involved in health research trials.

'We aim to ensure research is embedded in all aspects of care delivered in England. We also wish to provide an opportunity for anyone to be involved in a health research study. With nearly three quarters of a million participants in the last year we are moving closer to achieving this.'

Fiona Robertson, chief operating officer for the NIHR's Clinical Research Network in the Eastern region commended teams, and said: 'As we celebrate the 70th birthday of our NHS and recognise the role that research has played in its development, it is fantastic to see the growth in NIHR research activity in across the eastern region.

'This is testament to the continued pride taken by our clinical trials teams in their efforts to make sure as many patients as possible have access to research in our health services.'

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