University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust to host new NIHR Regional Research Delivery Network

Andrew Furlong, medical director at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

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 start in 2024 to support the successful delivery of health and social care research in England.

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. After an open competition, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust was successful in its bid to become the RRDN for the East Midlands. The RRDNs are being launched on 1 October 2024.

Andrew Furlong, medical director at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “We are proud to host the new Regional Research Delivery Network for the East Midlands, after successfully hosting its predecessor, the Clinical Research Network East Midlands, since its inception in 2015. We look forward to the opportunity to further strengthen clinical research in the region, as well as working as part of a national leadership function to drive best practice across England. 

“The Regional Research Delivery Network East Midlands will work with partners and stakeholders in the area to enable even more people across Leicestershire, Derbyshire Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire to take part in clinical trials and access cutting edge prevention, diagnostics and treatments, to improve the health of our communities.”

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust conducts world-leading research in cardiovascular, renal and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer. It hosts an NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Clinical Research Facility and Patient Recruitment Centre, using state-of-the-art equipment to develop and deliver advancements in medicine. In recent years, these include: bringing a new treatment for severe asthma from the laboratory, through clinical trials, into routine clinical care; showing the long-term impact of COVID on patients who were hospitalised with the disease; and developed a scoring system to accurately measure the risk of a patient having kidney failure.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR said: “I’d like to congratulate University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and all the successful hosts for the future NIHR RDN. I am looking forward to working with them 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 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.

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.

In addition, 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.