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£285k clinical research unit for Darlington Memorial Hospital

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is opening a new Clinical Research Unit later this month – one of the biggest in the region.

The new £285,000 facility at Darlington Memorial Hospital, will see former offices transformed into a high-tech centre for research, looking at a range of health conditions.

The new unit reflects the Trust’s position in a national league table of organisations which carry out health research work, produced by The Guardian in association with the National Institute for Health Research (NHIR)*. According to the league table, the Trust is in the top 15 per cent of NHS organisations carrying out research - ranked 56th out of 390 in the UK.

When the Clinical Research Unit opens its doors it will include out-patient areas, a waiting room, space for in-patient research work, meeting rooms, as well as accommodation for office staff and research teams. The facility will be used by the Trust’s teams working across 26 different specialities, covering a broad range of projects.

Prof Yan Yiannakou, Director of Research and Development at the Trust said: “The Trust is conducting a lot of research in a broad range of specialties and we now perform research in most of the main departments in the Trust, with more than 35 consultants leading trials.

“The research really falls into two categories. The first is drug trials for pharmaceutical companies, which is important in making sure these trials are done in a multi-centred way. It means patients here in the local area have the opportunity to access the latest drugs under development – which has obvious benefits.

“The other kind of research we do is our own, where we are driving the agenda, using our own ideas and innovations, which we have been very successful with and which attracts funding for the Trust. At the moment we have three large studies looking at GI disorders and breast cancer, which have attracted National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding – demonstrating the high value of research being done here.”

He added: “Research and Development work being done within the Trust is growing rapidly – we have increased research activity by an average of 38 per cent per year over the last five years. Last year we had 2,735 patients involved in our research, and we recruited to 91 clinical trials – so the new CRU will be extremely busy.”

The specialties with high levels of research activity over the last few years have included cardiology, gastroenterology and liver disease, cancer (especially breast cancer), stroke, diabetes, rheumatology and dermatology. However, there is strong growth in other areas, such as anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology, respiratory, colorectal surgery, ophthalmology and orthopaedics.

Prof Chris Gray, the Trust’s Medical Director, added: “The Trust can offer the opportunity to patients to be involved in clinical trials. We aim to offer participation in trials across a range of studies - rehabilitation as well as drug trials. Studies have shown that patients cared for in departments conducting clinical trials have better outcomes and experiences – so the increase in clinical research will have direct benefits for local people.”

The Trust’s Research and Development Department includes a dedicated team of managers, facilitators and admin staff, led by senior manager Lynne Williams. There are around 30 research nurses, as well as pathology and pharmacy staff, working across the Trust’s sites in Durham and Darlington. The new Clinical Research Unit has been funded with income generated by the research already being undertaken by the Trust,

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest integrated care providers in England, serving a population of around 600,000 people across County Durham, Darlington, North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and South Tyneside. The Trust brings together hospital, community services and health and wellbeing services to provide high quality and seamless care for patients.

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