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New hub to enhance clinical trial capability

NHS Digital partners with University of Oxford, Microsoft and IBM for pioneering new venture.

NHS Digital is working with the University of Oxford, Microsoft and IBM to develop a new hub that aims to revolutionise the way in which clinical trials are delivered – providing foundation services to determine whether a clinical trial is feasible, and to support better planning and delivery of clinical trials in the UK. 

NHS DigiTrial, the NHS Health Data Research Hub for Clinical Trials, was one of seven new hubs announced yesterday to enable cutting-edge research for health discoveries.

Led by Health Data Research UK, they are the first of their kind in the world and aim to improve the lives of people with debilitating conditions by making health data more accessible and user-friendly for research while maintaining strict controls around data security and privacy. 

NHS DigiTrial will initially provide a foundation service to return cohort feasibility queries and support patient enrolment and communication, and long-term follow-up of a cohort.  

It will contribute to lowering costs of future medical treatment and therapies and will be part of an ecosystem to support life science organisations, attract future inward investment to the UK, and advance and improve vital healthcare research to benefit patients. 

NHS Digital will lead the consortia and provide the service, with world class system security, to leverage the globally-unique data assets within the NHS. It will ensure strict adherence to information governance standards, patient confidentiality, data protection legislation and upholding patient privacy rights. 

The Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford will provide clinical and trial leadership, building on a proven track record in the safe management of clinical data and in running landmark trials of treatments for heart and other major diseases.

Microsoft will bring a wealth of knowledge and services, including its deep expertise in confidential computation in public cloud. IBM will provide deep expertise in digital, technical service design and modelling, data capabilities, programme management and the Life Sciences sector.

The hub is also welcomed by the National Institute for Healthcare Research and the Association of Medical Research Charities as a key contribution to the UK clinical trials offer.

NHS DigiTrial will work with other hub teams, including Discover-NOW, a partnership led by Imperial College Health Partners. Discover-NOW has also submitted a successful bid for the Health Data Research Hub for Real World Evidence, which will speed up research for new medicines, treatments and support quicker diagnoses and care provision.

The perspectives of patients and clinicians will be sought throughout the development of the new Hubs. This will ensure that they stay tightly aligned to patient and clinical expectations and remain at the forefront of established best practice.

Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital yesterday said:

“Our new ‘NHS DigiTrial’ 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 governance frameworks, and these will guide the design and delivery of this new service.” 

Professor Martin Landray, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, at the University of Oxford yesterday 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.”

“With a clear focus on data security, safety and public involvement, this is an important and exciting next step in the UK’s health data proposition and builds on the fantastic strengths we have across our health service, universities and industry.”  

Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK yesterday said:

“Clinical trials are fundamental in developing safe medical treatments but many are hampered by the lack of access to relevant patient information. NHS DigiTrial 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 DigiTrial 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.”

Dr Nicole Mather, Life Sciences lead, IBM Global Business Services, UK and Ireland yesterday 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."

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, Association of Medical Research Charities yesterday 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) yesterday 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."

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health Data Research Hubs are part of a four-year £37million investment from the Government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), led by UK Research and Innovation, to create a UK-wide system for the safe and responsible use of health-related data on a large scale.  
  2. The hubs were selected following an open competition by an independent panel involving patient and public representatives.  Each was assessed against criteria that included the potential for impact, the innovative uses of data, patient involvement and the value for public funding.  
  3. Learn more about NHS DigiTrial in this short video.

Discover more about the other new hubs and check their locations in this interactive map


Channel website: https://digital.nhs.uk

Original article link: https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/latest-news/new-hub-to-enhance-clinical-trial-capability

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