Lord James O’Shaughnessy, the former health minister, says real-time data sharing on commercial clinical activity in the UK will majorly improve the country’s clinical landscape.

At the Outsourcing in Clinical Trials conference, held from 11-12 June, experts in the clinical trial landscape congregated to hear about trends in the clinical research space. At a keynote session on the second day of the event, O’Shaughnessy highlighted a government target to quadruple UK clinical trial activity by 2027.

O’Shaughnessy cited data from an undisclosed pharmaceutical company that labelled the UK as the second slowest country in Europe for setting up clinical studies. Furthermore, another company reported a 60% decrease in patient recruitment for UK trials between 2019 and 2023.  Meanwhile, other countries like Spain, Poland, and Australia have seen the opposite trend as their clinical trial industries grow due to favourable policies to reduce approval and set up times, and increase tax rebates amongst other things, says the former health minister.

Last year, as part of O’Shaughnessy’s May review on the UK commercial clinical landscape, he suggested that some key ways to improve the UK clinical landscape could be by “providing real-time data on commercial clinical activity in the UK,” and “establishing a common approach to contacting patients about research”. At the conference, he said these have been some of the most difficult measures to implement amongst the other suggested actions from the review.

O’Shaughnessy explained that in the current ecosystem, there is “not enough” data sharing between the public and private sectors for clinical research. Thus, it makes it difficult to track the progress of the space and identify areas of improvement. He adds that an established system for sharing patient data could improve measures such as patient recruitment and other parts of the trial design and set-up process, partially tackling the UK’s problem with slower timelines.

On the data side, O’Shaughnessy says it will be necessary to provide full clarity on data-sharing agreements and proactive consenting models from the Health Research Authority. He also highlights essential plans to build a “comprehensive real-time data portal for all UK trials”.

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