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‘Ok to ask’ about clinical research

Expert Research Patient Alan Belcher
Expert Research Patient Alan Belcher talks to attendees about his experience of being involved in clinical trials

Published: 1 June 2015

Torbay Hospital’s Clinical Research department opened its doors to the public on Wednesday 20 May giving people an opportunity to learn more about clinical research in the NHS.

The open day was held to coincide with International Clinical Trials Day which is celebrated around the world each year to commemorate the very first ever clinical trial. That trial was conducted by Scottish physician James Lind in 1747 on the deadly disease scurvy. Through his clinical trial, Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy.

The event was an opportunity for members of the public and staff to find out who can take part in clinical trials at Torbay Hospital, run by South Devon Healthcare Trust, how they can get involved and why it is so important. Afternoon tea was included, plus a chance to meet the clinical research team, take part in a ‘Chocolate Trial’ and see examples of the clinical trials that are undertaken by the Trust.

There were also presentations from four of the Trust’s ‘Expert Research Patients’; Alan Belcher, Philip Webb, Kevin Hanley and Veronica Elliot. Alan Belcher (pictured) said: “Having been diabetic for many years, when I was given an opportunity to assist in a new drug trial for diabetes research, this seemed a good way of doing my small bit in helping the fight against this terrible disease which affects so many people worldwide.

“I have been looked after so well by the team at Torbay during the four years I have participated in this five year study trial and it has given me back a lot of confidence in myself.

“Having also had several heart attacks, I am going to sign up for the cardiac trial, after the diabetes trial ends later this year. I think it is really important to put yourself forward for a clinical trial to assist research and I would encourage anyone who is able, to go ahead and do it.”

Research is conducted across a range of diseases and conditions at the Hospital’s specially equipped Jubilee Research Unit, which was opened in 2012 and named in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Currently there are approximately 250 studies carried out at the Trust (including stroke, cancer, dermatology and many more) with 150 studies still needing more recruits.

Although clinical research is thriving in the NHS, most patients are unaware of local opportunities unless they are approached to take part in a particular study by their doctor or nurse. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is running an ‘Ok to ask’ campaign to help raise the profile and give patients the confidence to raise the subject of clinical research.

Torbay Hospital’s Chairman, Sir Richard Ibbotson, who opened the event, said: “I am very proud of the fact that our Trust recruits around 1,200 patients into trials every year. The more research that’s carried out, the better the outcome for patients all over the world, so I would say to anyone who is at all interested – it’s ok to ask. Please contact our Research and Development team on 01803 656635 or email them via our feedback form.