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UK NHS Joins Forces with IAOCR to Launch Clinical Trials Talent Taskforce

In a pivotal stride towards revitalizing the landscape of clinical research, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has forged an innovative partnership with the International Accrediting Organization for Clinical Research (IAOCR), a prominent institution specializing in accrediting clinical research professionals. This pioneering collaboration has birthed the UK Clinical Trials Talent Taskforce, a strategic initiative conceived to catalyze the attraction, development, and retention of skilled individuals operating within the clinical trials sector of the healthcare industry.

The genesis of this dynamic taskforce can be traced back to the recently published and authoritative report authored by Lord James O’Shaughnessy. This comprehensive analysis delved into the state of commercial clinical trials within the UK, shedding light on an alarming decline that has pervaded the sector in recent years. The report’s compelling recommendations have galvanized the formation of the UK Clinical Trials Talent Taskforce, designed to engineer a remarkable turnaround in this crucial domain.

As underscored by figures unveiled by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the time period spanning from 2017 to 2021 witnessed a worrisome 41% reduction in the initiation of new trials—a trend that raises a clarion call for strategic intervention to breathe new life into this vital sector of healthcare.

The amalgamation of strengths between the NHS R&D Forum and the IAOCR has yielded the establishment of the taskforce, which stands poised to engineer a transformational shift in the clinical trials arena. At its core, the taskforce aspires to construct an intricate “ecosystem” that acts as a magnet for talent, nurtures their development, confers professional recognition, and ensures their retention. In consonance with Lord O’Shaughnessy’s clarion call for an era of “exceptional best practice,” the taskforce is steadfastly committed to making this exceptionalism the norm within the UK clinical trials landscape.

The taskforce’s inaugural mandate hinges upon a meticulous survey of the current state of clinical trials within the UK. This preliminary assessment serves as the compass to navigate the journey ahead—identifying existing pockets of excellence, unearthing the voids, and formulating strategies to elevate both present and future talent. This surge of talent, drawn from both public and private sectors, is earmarked to fuel the UK’s ascent as a global frontrunner in commercial clinical trials.

A standout ambition articulated by Lord O’Shaughnessy sets forth a tangible goal: to double the engagement of individuals participating in commercial clinical trials within the next biennial and replicate this feat yet again by 2027. This audacious target has been woven into the very fabric of the taskforce’s mission, further cementing its pivotal role.

Guiding the helm of this groundbreaking collaboration are two stalwarts in the field—Angela Topping from the NHS R&D Forum and Jacqueline Johnson North from IAOCR. Their collective stewardship infuses the taskforce with a wealth of experience, vision, and purpose.

Jacqueline Johnson North, the distinguished Chief Executive of IAOCR and Global Clinical Site Accreditation (GCSA), cogently underscores the indispensability of a dedicated and exceptional workforce to propel the exponential surge in clinical trial participation and discovery of new treatments. In her view, while the UK is blessed with a plethora of talent solutions spanning both private and public sectors, the current offerings are dispersed and disjointed. The clarion call for “exceptional best practice” necessitates an exceptional workforce buttressed by exemplary education, career progression, and professional recognition.

The taskforce’s compass is not limited to the O’Shaughnessy report alone. Professor Dame Angela McLean’s insightful report has also been assimilated into their strategic framework. This report, delving into the regulatory nuances of life sciences within the UK, recommends the establishment of US-style Centres of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSIs) to fortify the talent pipeline.

Echoing the intricate nature of clinical research, Angela Topping, head of the Newcastle Joint Research Office (NJRO) within the NHS, accentuates the multifaceted and interdisciplinary character of this realm. For her, the comprehensive overhaul required must be systemic, fostering career pathways that nurture and champion clinical research talent—a transformation with far-reaching benefits for the entire UK landscape.

The advent of the UK Clinical Trials Talent Taskforce represents a watershed moment. This novel partnership between the NHS and IAOCR heralds an era of transformative growth for clinical research, aligning seamlessly with the visionary goals enunciated by Lord O’Shaughnessy and other luminaries in the field. The taskforce’s pursuit of an exceptional workforce, supported by robust education, career progression, and professional recognition, is destined to sculpt a brighter future for clinical trials within the UK and beyond.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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