Clinical Practice Research Datalink launches

Posted on May 29, 2012 by


At AMRC, one of the things we regularly tell the government and other stakeholders is how keen patients are to be involved in research.  At the last count 72% of the public told us they would like their doctor to offer them the chance to be involved in clinical trials. And yet apparently up to 1/3 of all industry funded clinical trials currently fail to reach their target for recruiting patients. So whilst charities report that their supporters want to be involved in research but have no idea how to go about it, industry trials are finding it hard to reach enough patients. That points to a systems problem.

Last Thursday I think I saw the beginnings of the solution to that problem.

The Clinical Practice Research Datalink, the CPRD, is an IT system that will record all the interventions that take place in the NHS (1million every 36 hours!). Based on the General Practice Research Database, which already stores data from family doctors, the new IT system will combine anonymous NHS clinical data from both primary and secondary care data in a “safe haven” which can be accessed by approved researchers. That alone is a huge advance, but when you consider that this database will also link to census data, public health data and mortality data, you start to see how powerful this resource could be.

  • By linking to the joint replacement register, for example, it will be able to plot how often particular implants fail and so quickly identify if one type of replacement is better than another.
  • It can provide a real-time surveillance tool for public health, tracking, for example, the spread of an infectious disease.
  • And to come back to where we started, it should help to match those patients who want to be involved in research with those trials that are seeking patients.

We have long been saying that the NHS, as a universal health system running over decades, can provide a really rich source of longitudinal and epidemiological data to support research. The CPRD is the sort of practical system that can help the NHS to be the truly research based service it, and patients, want it to be.  Maybe it is the sort of resource that will turn the tide on the numbers of clinical trials leaving the UK to be done elsewhere, and help to fill those empty research trial places.

Posted in: Research