Changes to the Clinical Research Network

Posted on June 26, 2013 by

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The NIHR Clinical Research Network will be changing its structure in April 2014, to allow the networks to evolve – so more clinical studies can take place, and more NHS patients will be able to take part in research. The changes should not affect the day-to-day activities of the network, and new and ongoing studies should not be affected.

Background

The Clinical Research Network in England was established as part of NIHR when it launched in 2006, and has grown organically over the past years, starting with cancer and expanding to cover 6 topics and 23 speciality areas across the whole of England and interlinking with networks in other parts of the UK.

But, there has been a concern that the structure operated differently across the various themes and geographic areas.

At our 2012 AGM, Dr Jonathan Sheffield (CEO of the NIHR CRN) announced that the Network was planning to restructure to allow it to offer a  more consistent service across all diseases and geographies, and share best practice.

In Feb 2013 we shared the NIHR CRN’s consultation document and Dr Sheffield explained in more detail in an interview with NIHR’s Louise Wood on our blog.

So what will the new structure look like?

The new structure will include:

  • 30 specialties for clinical engagement
  • 12 NIHR CRN theme directors
  • 6 national thematic research delivery divisions
  • 15 local research networks (with similar boundaries as AHSNs)

map of crn structure

This restructure keeps the clinical specialities, but allows concentration of expertise in the delivery of clinical research. Each of the 30 specialty areas will be linked to a clinical theme director, and a delivery team. NIHR have mapped how the areas will be grouped, covering a similar size of portfolio, and bringing together areas that use similar services.

At the same time, the local delivery of clinical research will be concentrated into 15 local research networks, who will work with this thematic structure to increase consistency. The host organisations will be announced in the autumn for contracts beginning in April 2014.

What this means for AMRC charities

From the list of specialties, themes and delivery groupings, charities will be able to see where their disease areas are grouped. We hope that the groupings will allow research to flourish in the NHS. The ultimate aim for this change is that it will allow the CRN to evolve so that more clinical studies can take place, and more NHS patients will be able to take part in research.

Our vision for research in the NHS  is that every patient is offered opportunities to be involved in research and all NHS staff  see the importance of research. Evolution of the networks aimed at increasing opportunities for patients and staff to take part in research, wherever they live, is an important step in delivering this.

We will work with the networks to ensure this change delivers for patients, and builds on the good practice and initiatives already underway.

What’s next?

The new structures will come into force in April 2014, but charities may see some changes before this time, as the reconfiguration takes place. NIHR CRN have said that they do not expect the changes to affect the day-to-day activities of the network, and new and ongoing studies should not be affected. But if you have any questions about how these changes to our structure will affect you, contact the NIHR CRN Transition Programme office.

Posted in: Policy, Research