Clinical research in UK could be ‘permanently diminished’, suggests House of Lords
The House of Lords’ committee wrote to the Minister of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, with the conclusions it drew from its inquiry, which included a number of areas for ‘urgent action’.
The letter placed into context that despite the UK’s ‘current economic situation’ and the ‘significant NHS backlog’, the net benefit of clinical research can mitigate workforce challenges and improve patient outcomes. However, the inquiry had noted that the clinical research environment in the NHS is on a ‘dangerous precipice’ and without action, the country would lose out on such benefits.
Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Julia King, said: “Throughout the course of our inquiry we heard alarming reports about the declining state of clinical research in the NHS.
"There is a ‘leaky pipeline’ for consultant clinical academics who often drive medical breakthroughs into frontline patient care. If issues in pay and pension inequality are not addressed, we are in danger of permanently eroding the clinical research workforce and it is patients who will suffer.”
Further, King noted her concerns that if measures are not taken by the UK government then the country’s clinical research capacity could be ‘permanently diminished’.
As a response to this situation, the inquiry suggested numerous potential recommendations, which included better pay to address inequalities that disincentivise clinical academia as a career pathway, and to remove measures that encourage early retirement for NHS consultants.
Additional recommendation include addressing inequalities in opportunities for clinical academia, and to ensure that trainee doctors are exposed to clinical research as part of their training.
Echoing the ABPI
The conclusions of the House of Lords’ inquiry follow a similar report released by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) at the end of last year. The industry body found that clinical research had been falling over the previous five years in the UK, with 48% fewer phase 3 trials taking place between 2017 and 2021.
The UK’s ranking in late-stage clinical research had also fallen from 4th to 10th position in Phase III trials. As a result, patient numbers moving through the UK’s clinical trial network had fallen by 44% over the same period.
At the time, Richard Torbett, chief executive of the ABPI, stated: “The time it takes to set up trials and recruit patients in the UK is out of line with our global competitors and is moving in the wrong direction. As a result of this, and growing commercial pressures, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking elsewhere when choosing where to develop and launch new medicines and vaccines.”