The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that a new National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Research Delivery Network (RDN) will commence in 2024 to support the successful delivery of health and social care research in England.
The new RDN will be customer-focused with an emphasis on continuous improvement in services and outcomes, driving innovation across the system, and playing a full and active role in implementing government policy. These include the Life Sciences Vision, policy for life sciences Research & Development, the UK Recovery Resilience and Growth programme, and the Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review into commercial clinical trials in the UK.
As part of this, 12 new Regional Research Delivery Networks (RRDNs) will be hosted by NHS Organisations the length and breadth of the country, covering all English regions. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) was successful in its bid to become the RRDN for the North West (NW RRDN). The RRDNs are being launched on 1 October 2024.
As part of the transition to the NW RRDN, the existing NIHR Greater Manchester (GM) and North West Coast (NWC) Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs) will merge to form a single service covering the whole region and serving more than seven million people.
Mark Cubbon, MFT Group Chief Executive, said: “Greater Manchester plays a key role as a regional centre for clinical research and innovation (R&I). At MFT we continue to support the development and expansion of R&I so that our patients can benefit from innovative technologies and treatments which deliver better outcomes.
“We are incredibly proud that we have been chosen to host the new the NIHR North West Regional Research Delivery Network (NW RRDN), that will bring together the expertise and experience of the Greater Manchester and North West Coast Local Clinical Research Networks. This will provide even greater access to cutting-edge research for patients and the public, and provide a springboard for further collaboration across the North West.”
The RRDNs will form part of the NIHR Research Delivery Network, which will operate as a single organisation across England. The joint leadership function will balance regional context, expertise and leadership, with national coordination and strategy, involving DHSC policymakers.
Professor Jane Eddleston, MFT Joint Group Medical Director, said: “Through our existing NIHR infrastructure we have been driving translational medicine across urban, rural and coastal communities in the North West to deliver improved health outcomes. This addition will further enhance our capabilities to deliver these improvements.
“The O’Shaughnessy Reported highlighted strengths in the approach to commercial clinical trials and we hope to replicate this at pace and scale across the North West.”
Professor Rick Body, Group Director of Research and Innovation at MFT, said: “Over the last 9 years, the work delivered by the GM and NWC LCRNs has put the delivery of health and care research at the heart of NHS activity, providing thousands of our patients with outstanding opportunities to benefit from cutting edge health and social care.
“We look forward to cementing this even further through the exciting activity of the NW RRDN in the forthcoming years.”
The new RDN, working with the wider system, will enhance equality of opportunity for people to get involved in research, no matter who they are or which part of the country they reside. It will enable research activity to follow patient and service user need, ensuring research is conducted in communities living with the greatest disease burden, in collaboration with patients, carers and the public, investigators and study sites.
Professor Andrew Ustianowski, Director of NIHR NW RRDN and current Co-Clinal Director at NIHR CRN GM, said: “The new NW RRDN will bring together a wealth of expertise and research infrastructure from across our region which already has a great track record of working collaboratively and maximising our unique strengths together. Under the new structure, we will serve the entire North West and more than seven million people, which presents us with an enormous opportunity as we will become the nation’s biggest research network with a population larger than many European countries. This should be very attractive to partners in the global research community and present opportunities for even better access to research participation for our communities. “
Dr Chris Smith, Transition Lead for NW RRDN and Chief Operating Officer for the Clinical Research Network: North West Coast also commented: “NW RRDN will represent a real opportunity for all our health and care organisations to collaborate on a bigger scale across the region to address health inequalities and improve research opportunities for the communities we serve.
“Over the coming months we will be working hard with all our partners to ensure that the North West is at the forefront of research, playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare for our population.”
Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR said: “I’d like to congratulate Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and all the successful hosts for the future NIHR RDN. I am looking forward to working with MFT and all the organisations across the new RDN to support the delivery of the best health and care research for the public.
“The opportunity to be part of research is crucial for all communities, particularly those with major health and care needs. The new NIHR RDN will build capacity to extend research delivery in primary, community and social care settings to make it easier for patients to get access to cutting-edge treatments and new models of care, through research.
“The plans and ambitions we have for the NIHR RDN have evolved from the excellent work of the Clinical Research Network over the last nine years. Its many dedicated staff have worked incredibly hard to support researchers and sponsors in England to deliver some of the best health and care research during this time. Without their passion and determination, so much of the world-leading research produced in this country during the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible.”
The new NIHR RDN will support the country’s world-class research system to deliver high quality research that enables the best care for patients and the public. It will work across the health and care system, with staff in all health and care settings, to support the effective and efficient initiation and delivery of research. This will benefit people receiving care now and in the future. It will support the NHS and care services and generate benefits for the economy of the UK.