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More than 29,500 volunteer for Oxfordshire research

02/08/2022

New figures show that more than 29,500 participants volunteered for health research studies supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network in Oxfordshire last year.

Some 17,527 participants took part in 487 studies at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust in the 12 months from April 2021.

A total of 9,965 participants took part in 58 studies in the community, including trialling possible treatments for COVID-19, while a further 2,270 volunteered in 60 studies at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides physical, mental health and social care.

The studies were those supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network, which helps researchers make studies happen in the NHS, public health and social care.

As well as patients being offered the opportunity to participate, healthy people can also take part so results can be compared to those with a medical condition.

Among the studies participants volunteered for in the 12-month period were:

the University of Oxford's PANORAMIC study into the effectiveness of antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19 in the community 

the EVAREST study investigating whether analysing a patient's blood can improve the accuracy of a stress echocardiogram, which involves ultrasound of the heart during cardiac stress, to identify coronary artery disease

the OPTIMAS trial comparing the effectiveness of early treatment with anticoagulant drugs to prevent further strokes and blood clots for acute ischaemic stroke and atrial fibrillation with giving the drugs in standard time

the University of Oxford's DMech study into understanding the mechanisms underlying type 1 diabetes by analysing DNA samples in patients and healthy volunteers

Taking part in Parkinson's research

Among those taking part in research is Oxford's Sally Bromley, 73, who has been participating in the University of Oxford's Targeting Pathways to Parkinson’s study since it opened in 2010, after she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease in 2008.

She said: "I had long been aware I had a shaking hand but it didn't bother me, so I didn't worry about it until my daughter took me to see the doctor. I burst into tears when I was told. You think you're ready for it but you're never really ready for a horrid diagnosis.

"My right foot drags a bit and I don't swing my arm when I walk. I find it very difficult to turn over in bed and I have anxiety and very vivid dreams. I can't play the piano anymore because I've lost the dexterity in my hands, and I've lost my singing voice. I studied music at college so it's really quite a loss."

The study involves visits to OUH's John Radcliffe Hospital every 18 months for tests and measurements, including blood tests, MRI scans, skin biopsies, walking examinations and memory tests to help researchers better understand how Parkinson's develops.

Sally, a retired schoolteacher from Summertown, said: "When I heard that they could do this research, I just said 'of course I'll do it', because I was just ecstatic. I was mesmerised by the research and the researcher because she was just so interesting.

"It was fascinating because it tells you a little bit about the condition you didn't necessarily know. I think it's really interesting and exciting to see these young people investigating Parkinson's Disease so deeply. It's really stimulating and heart-warming."

Sally's husband Jonathan also takes part in the study so findings from Parkinson's patients can be compared to people who do not have the disease.

Sally said: "I think it's a great help to know a bit more about your condition and what the tests are, how much time they involve, what they are seeking and where it fits in with the whole picture."

Survey shows positive research experiences

The figures come as results of a survey show those who responded had a positive experience of taking part in studies.

In the NIHR survey of 1,728 participants in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire, 93.2 percent of respondents said they would consider taking part in research again.

The survey, conducted in the 12 months from April 2021, found:

  • 93.6% said research staff always treated them with courtesy and respect 
  • 92.5 percent said researchers valued their taking part in the research 
  • 89.3 percent said they knew how to contact someone from the research team if they had any questions or concerns 
  • 78.6 percent said they knew how they would receive the results of the research
  • 71.1 percent said they had been kept updated about the research 

The results of the survey will be shared with research staff to drive improvements in how studies are delivered. 

Figures 'great news'

Dr Chris Bray, Head of Research and Development Operations at OUH, said: "Despite the challenges over the last year, it is great to see that over 17,500 participants were recruited to NIHR-supported studies at our Trust. This is a testimony to the resilience and determination of our research teams and those who support them. The findings of the latest survey of participant experience will be valuable to help us to build on this in future."

Dr Vanessa Raymont, Research and Development Director at Oxford Health, said: "These figures are great news as we need patients and the public to take part in research to ensure the services and treatments we provide are as effective as possible, for as many patients as possible. Without them and the NIHR such research just wouldn't happen."

Professor Manu Vatish, Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands and a Consultant Obstetrician at OUH, said: "Taking part in health research improves treatments, the NHS and saves lives. It is excellent to see the engagement that our community has with clinical research and we hope more will be encouraged to take part."

Patients are also encouraged to ask their doctor or health professional about research opportunities and view trials seeking volunteers at bepartofresearch.uk.

Pictured: Sally Bromley and her husband Jonathan have been taking part in a Parkinson's research study since 2010