What is clinical research and why are we focussing on it?

Last updated on 15 Dec 2022

The People-Centred Clinical Research project is focussed on improving clinical research - but what does it mean when we say clinical research?

This explanation of clinical research has been co-created by a steering group of public contributors, member of the researcher community and NHS staff.

The term clinical research relates to projects which aim to find out more about an illness, condition, treatment, therapy, or care by directly involving people.

The people taking part choose to follow a plan and to provide information about themselves. The information collected is used to make decisions to improve treatments, therapies and care for people more generally.

Clinical research

  • actively involves people and is focused on improving health and care
  • usually the people taking part are patients, but not always
  • often happens in a hospital or GP setting but it also occurs in other places, for example in the community or people’s homes
  • may ask people to take a new treatment, use a device or be cared for in a certain way, or it may ask people to provide information about the care they usually have
  • it may be a clinical trial to test a treatment or care package, but it may also be looking to find out more about a condition, therapy, experience or setting

Why are we focussed on clinical research?

Clinical research is critical to delivering new treatments and care to patients. This has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic when our UK wide clinical research staff and infrastructure led the way for urgent new treatments and vaccines.

The pandemic has unfortunately also affected our ability to deliver other clinical studies and our potential to impact better patient care through research has been widely affected.

Our project is funded in part by the UK Research, Recovery, Resilience and Growth (RRG) programme, and as such our focus is delivering on this vision to save and improve lives; addressing long standing inequalities by improving clinical research delivery in people-centred ways.

However, despite this focus we know many of the lessons we learn and the initiatives we draw upon can be shared to improve all types of health research that involves people.

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