National NHS research leader visits Newcastle’s latest clinical trials facility

Newcastle Hospitals, the country’s top NHS trust for delivering clinical trials, welcomed the chief executive officer for National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) today for a special preview of a new clinical trials unit in the city.

The Newcastle P3 - due to open later this spring - will be the UK’s first clinical trials facility in the NHS to specialise in late phase commercial trials.

l-r: Prof Yan Yiannakou, Matron Aileen Burn, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, Hazel Forsyth, Dr Alan Bagnall, Prof Julia Newton

As chief executive officer for NIHR (CRN), Dr Jonathan Sheffield’s ambition is to accelerate delivery of life-changing treatments whilst improving engagement with patients, researchers, Life Science industry and the wider NHS.

During a tour, Dr Sheffield said he was impressed with the environment and overall ethos of the unit which ‘can only build upon’ the trust’s research status.

“Newcastle Hospitals is our most successful trust nationally in terms of clinical trials – they always deliver,” he said.

“This new unit is an extension of a key objective in Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industry paper published in 2018, calling for a 50% increase in clinical trials across the UK over the next five years. It is an exemplar of how we can deliver on this requirement; so much so that I would like to see Newcastle's approach replicated across the NHS to drive up the volume of trials nationwide.” 

The P3 unit – which focuses on patients, process and partnerships - is designed to be a stand-alone facility on the Campus for Ageing and Vitality (the former Newcastle General Hospital site) and will be run by a dedicated team of commercial research experts.

The Trust’s research and development director, Dr Alan Bagnall, explains: “We are extremely proud to be leading the way with a new type of clinical research facility that focuses on partnerships between patients and industry, bringing the latest innovations into everyday practice.”

Partnerships with local GP practices are key in order to reach out to patients who might be suitable for trials but do not attend hospital clinics where they are most likely to hear about them, along with plans to promote the service extensively through social media.

Professor Yan Yiannakou, Newcastle P3’s clinical director explains: “The aim is to empower all patients in our local population so that they can find out more about clinical trials they may wish to take part in, not just those attending specialist clinics.

“Our P3 unit will allow us to focus on trials for common chronic conditions such as headaches, back pain, moderate asthma and irritable bowel syndrome, and specifically fills that niche.”

Newcastle Hospitals is already one of the most research active trusts in the country, topping the NIHR research league table for seven consecutive years and carries out around 120 commercial trials each year through strong partnership with industry, bringing the latest treatments to our patients.

Professor Julia Newton, Associate Medical Director for the Newcastle Hospitals adds: “Newcastle is already at the top of the national league tables but we are not resting on our laurels. By investing in this innovative facility, we are looking to further increase our research capacity and capability for patients in the North East and indeed across the rest of UK.”

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