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Big increase in research participants at OUH

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New figures show that there has been a significant increase in the number of people taking part in research at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust over the past year.

In its annual Research Activity League Table, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) said that OUH had recruited 32,285 participants to 534 NIHR-supported studies in 2018/19 at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, Churchill Hospital and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Banbury's Horton General Hospital. This compared with 20,937 participants in 517 studies the previous year.

OUH was ranked second in England for both the number of participants and of research studies.

The new league table also shows that 5,921 participants took part in 58 research studies in Oxfordshire's community settings, such as GP practices - more than any other NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in England - compared to 3,602 participants in 51 studies the previous year. 

And Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust recruited 2,891 participants to 61 studies, compared to 2,242 participants to 60 studies the previous year. It ranked fourth among mental health trusts for the number of participants and studies.

'Another fantastic year'

Prof Meghana Pandit, Chief Medical Officer at OUH, said: "We're delighted to hear that there were more than 30,000 participants in research at our Trust in the past year. 

"Our research covers a wide range of medical specialties and health conditions, which has helped ensure that so many Oxfordshire residents have been given the opportunity to take part."

Prof Keith Channon, OUH's Director of Research and Development, added: "Clinical research is woven into the fabric of Oxford University Hospitals and as a result of the close partnership between the Trust and the University of Oxford, we are recognised as being at the forefront of world-class research that benefits the NHS and its patients. The support that we receive from the NIHR is crucial to this. 

"Our relationship with the community we serve is a vital part of this research excellence. Many of Oxford's medical breakthroughs would have been impossible without people from across our region participating in clinical trials. There is good evidence that clinical research improves patient outcomes, not only for the participants themselves who benefit from the latest innovations in diagnosis and treatment, but also through improvements for future patients."

"So we are delighted that the number of people taking part in research at our hospitals continues to increase. It is a fantastic achievement that reflects the importance we place on clinical research at OUH," Prof Channon said.

One of the people who participated in research was 71-year-old Nick Dobson, from Oxford, whose eczema cleared up after he took part in a drug trial. He had the condition for more than 30 years before taking part in a research trial of a new drug, which has since been approved for routine use in the NHS. 

Mr Dobson, a former university lecturer, welcomed the increase in the number of NHS research participants in Oxfordshire: "I've always volunteered for studies and it's never occurred to me as something not to do. As this study was into something that affected me personally, if it worked, why wouldn't I take part?"

Eczema research trial

Mr Dobson volunteered for a study into whether the injectable drug dupilumab could be used to treat eczema after hearing about it from his consultant at the Churchill Hospital in 2016. Dupilumab works by blocking a protein which causes inflammation of the skin in people with eczema. 

Participants on the NIHR-supported study - funded by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - were split into three groups: the first group received a weekly dupilumab injection, the second received the drug every two weeks and the third received a placebo. 

Mr Dobson, who was later told he was in the second group, said: "The eczema was quite serious for me and my consultant recognised that it was, so he referred me to the research team for this study and without giving it too much thought I just said 'yes'. Generally one has a social conscience and living in this university world you realise that research is fundamental.

"It turned out I only got the half dose and still I saw an almost instant improvement. It feels fantastic to not have eczema now and to do the trial has been a joy. The researchers have been very supportive and I've enjoyed the experience. The relief of not having to scratch and apply ointment was huge."

Dupilumab was recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use in the NHS in August 2018. 

Patients are encouraged to ask their doctor about research opportunities and search for studies seeking volunteers at:

Pictured: Nick Dobson's eczema cleared up after he took part in a trial for a new drug at the Churchill Hospital.