Primary care research in the CRN

Dr Philip Evans, National Specialty Lead for Primary Care, NIHR Clinical Research Network

Primary care continues to be a major player in recruitment across the Clinical Research Network of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). Building on the successes of the preceding Primary Care Research Networks across England, the Primary Care National Specialty Group, led by Dr Philip Evans (see picture) is working with the 15 Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs) across England and with our colleagues in the devolved nations, to recruit participants into high quality NIHR research studies.

Research continues apace and in 2014/15, just under 100,000 participants were recruited in primary care studies alone, with an additional 85,000 participants from primary care recruited to studies run by other specialties within the CRN. Across the country in the last year, 41% of all general practices recruited into NIHR studies and in some areas this was much higher.

The CRN is working very closely with our colleagues at the RCGP on their revision of Research Ready. The Network recommends Research Ready to practices taking part in research. It is particularly applicable to those practices new to research as an excellent and informative way of preparing your practice to take part in research. It is also relevant to those practices who are experienced in research in terms of providing quality assurance for their research governance processes and should be helpful in your CQC inspections. The CRN was also pleased to see e-Learning modules which are available free to practices within the Research Ready scheme. These modules should increase knowledge of research and improve the practicalities of undertaking research across the country.

Studies run in primary care on behalf of the CRN are answering important clinical questions relating not only to general practice, but also to other parts of primary care such as dentistry and pharmacy. Along with the drive to engage pharmacists in general practice service activity, there is a Research Ready equivalent for pharmacies, run by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, to accredit and then engage pharmacies in research. Given the increasing prevalence of joint working, it is likely that there will also be closer working between general practices and pharmacies in terms of research in the future.

We are keen as a network to recruit practices who are wishing to engage with commercial activity which is a key strategic driver for the CRN, and most LCRNs will have an industry lead who practices can approach for further help and support. In some areas there are peer-to-peer and mentoring resources available for practices who are new to industry research. It goes without saying that the CRN is extremely grateful to all those practices who recruit participants into NIHR studies and to all the teams within them.

We are also developing a joint CRN/RCGP Research Award for practices who excel in NIHR activity and we also proposing a FirstFive® award for similar excellence in NIHR activity for those GPs in their first five years. This is an exciting initiative and you should hear more of this in the near future.


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