Director of Research and Clinical Trials, NHS Digital
A new initiative is helping to find new and effective treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic and increase participation in clinical trials.
Data has been shown to have a significant impact on clinical trial research. However, more support is needed at key points where collected patient data can make a real difference – to support feasibility and planning, recruitment of the right cohort and tracking what happens to participants’ health over time.
Back in 2019 NHS Digital, with partners from IBM, Microsoft and the University of Oxford, set about creating a new approach to improving the cost and speed of clinical trials. The initiative, supported by Health Data Research UK, created NHS DigiTrials, a new service designed to meet the needs of clinical trialists using the wealth of routinely collected data held by NHS Digital.
Using data to make a difference
The initiative will bring wider benefits to society by opening up opportunities for a wider range of people to join clinical trials, to improve the quality of data generated and ensure safe, effective and affordable treatments are available to the NHS.
It has been designed from the ground up with patients and clinical trialists. We were just getting started when the COVID-19 pandemic presented an urgent need for exactly this type of support to clinical trials.
Data from NHS Digital is used to track patient outcomes, reducing the burden on hospital teams during the pandemic and supporting the trial to find effective and safe treatments.
So far, NHS DigiTrials has contributed to 12 trials related to COVID-19, with more being planned. Perhaps the best known is the University of Oxford’s Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial to test potential treatments for patients hospitalised with COVID-19.
Reducing burden on the NHS
Data from NHS Digital is used to track patient outcomes, reducing the burden on hospital teams during the pandemic and supporting the trial to find effective and safe treatments. We have also supported the trial by sending out newsletters to trial participants to keep them informed about the results from the study.
The results of the trial led to dexamethasone being found to help patients with severe COVID-19. The findings suggested the risk of death of patients on ventilators was cut by a third, while the patients on oxygen had their risk of death cut by a fifth.
Accelerating clinical trials
Through secure and transparent use of nationally collected patient data we can help speed up clinical trials, give more people the opportunity to participate in research, and translate the remarkable achievements made in response to COVID-19 to make faster progress against other diseases.