A new national survey has found strong public support for diversity in health and social care research.
Having a diverse group of research participants is important because it provides a better understanding of how different interventions work on different groups of people.
This provides more robust clinical data so that medicines and devices are effective for the whole population and help address health inequalities.
The YouGov survey, commissioned by the Health Research Authority (HRA), found nine in ten (88%) people think a diverse mix of participants in health and social care research is important.
A majority of the public also said it’s important to include a diverse mix of participants even if the research costs more money (70%) or takes more time (74%).
Diversity also impacts on confidence in research funded by the private sector, such as pharmaceutical companies, with over half saying (52%) they have more confidence in the findings if the study includes a diverse mix of participants.
But the survey also found that 30% of Black people were not confident that they would be looked after if they took part in a health or social care research study. This lack of confidence is significantly higher than White people (18% not confident).
The new poll echoes a similar survey commissioned by the HRA in 2017, which found strong public support for research, but less positive perceptions of research among ethnic minorities.
The new survey follows today’s (Wednesday 22 November) publication of the Government’s response to the recommendations in the Lord O’Shaughnessy review into commercial clinical trials. The review made recommendations to increase the number of commercial clinical trials taking place in the UK.
It also recommended research organisations make sure the participants in clinical trials are diverse.
The review says: “It is essential that clinical trials in the UK reflect our diverse population to provide benefits to all patients... …The population diversity of the UK offers the potential for companies to demonstrate the effectiveness of products across a wide range of patient populations.”
Matt Westmore, Chief Executive at the HRA
We commissioned this survey to better understand the public’s attitudes towards health and social care research and to identify what matters to them so that we can make it easier to do research that people can trust.
The results tell us that there is strong public support for diversity in research and that this can help build the public’s confidence and trust in health research.
This is important because diverse clinical trials give us a better understanding of how interventions for a condition or illness works across different groups, which ultimately leads to more successful care that address health inequalities, save lives, and benefit everyone.
Our diverse UK population can help researchers to investigate the effectiveness of their treatments, so the UK stands to gain even more by increasing the diversity of research participants. This will help increase opportunities for UK citizens to take part and make the UK an even more attractive place to do clinical research.
Lord James O'Shaughnessy
As I highlighted in my review into commercial clinical trials, as well as increasing our research footprint we need to make sure that everyone – and in particular disadvantaged or marginalised groups – have the chance to benefit. I welcome the HRA’s research, which shows strong public support for this approach and that improving trial diversity will increase trust in research.
The diverse nature of our population should be a superpower for UK clinical research, enabling us to provide data that is relevant to almost every country in the world while bringing innovative new treatments to the British communities who will benefit most from them.
The new survey also shows that public involvement in ensuring research findings are communicated in an accessible way increases the public’s confidence with over half (55%) saying it makes them more confident about taking part.
Efforts towards research transparency, such as by adding the study to a public register before it started, also increases the public’s trust in research with two thirds (65%) saying it makes them more confident in the research findings.
Matt Westmore, Chief Executive at the HRA
It’s really reassuring that for all groups of people our work to increase transparency about research, ensure that the public is involved in the design and communication of research and increase the diversity of people taking part in research will help to earn their confidence.
This will help to ensure people from a broad range of backgrounds participate in research and trust its findings, which will make the UK an even better place to do research.
Increasing the diversity of research participants is one of the key priorities for the HRA and the results of the survey will drive work, including:
- developing a set of questions and supporting guidance, with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), for researchers to consider when they design clinical trials and clinical investigations. This will help ensure clinical research is designed to include people who could benefit from the findings, and that people underserved by research are not overlooked
- clarifying expectations of researchers by updating the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research on diversity
- sharing the principles and hallmarks for good people-centred clinical research with the research community to help them to put people first
You can read the full survey on the HRA website.
YouGov collected data from a representative sample of 5,030 people from across the United Kingdom, collected through online methods. The Fieldwork was conducted between the 27 April and 16 May 2023.
public involvement refers to members of the public influencing and shaping the delivery of research. HRA has launched a Shared Commitment with leading organisations to embed excellent public involvement in the health and social care research sector
transparency in research refers to research that is carried out openly and transparently so that patients and the public can see what research is taking place in the UK and can access the findings. The HRA is running a Make it Public campaign to improve transparency in research