The clinical research process is set to be digitised to make it “faster and cheaper” under £64m government plans to bolster health research.

The government has today set out the first phase of its ‘Saving and improving lives: the future of UK clinical research delivery’, initially published in March, to improve patient outcomes through better research.

Part of this includes digitising the clinical research process to make it “faster and cheaper by beginning to create a holistic, data-enabled Find, Recruit and Follow-up service”, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care.

This will allow researchers to “digitally find patients, offer them places in trials and monitor health outcomes as part of the study, making the set-up and delivery of clinical research faster, easier and more inclusive, to accelerate the development of life saving health-innovations”.

The strategy also aims to develop and trial new Covid-19 vaccines and treatments; support a faster approval process for UK research; boost clinical research with more virtual and remote trials; and increase diversity and participation in trials.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Clinical research has been vital in our fight against Covid-19 and has saved thousands of lives. Working with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments, our ambitious UK-wide vision for the future of clinical research delivery is essential if we are to build on this exciting and life saving momentum.

“We are making this vision a reality by continuing to work closely with our partners across the UK, the NHS, regulators, industry and medical research sector. We will create a more innovative, resilient and patient-centred clinical research system.”

Lord Bethell, minister for innovation, added: “This is the first step in a big ambitious vision. We will continue to build upon these strong foundations to deliver a research ecosystem that positions the UK as a global leader in cutting-edge clinical research. With research embedded across the NHS, UK will be a global leader in trials for new treatments and technologies.”

The plan aims to promote “patient-centred, innovative and data-enabled clinical research environment”.

It comes as the government launched its draft data strategy aiming to capitalise on work undertaken using health data during the pandemic.

According to the draft strategy ‘Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data’, patients will have more control over their health data with easier access to their test results; medication lists; procedures; and care plans from across all parts of the health system through patient apps, such as the NHS App.

But privacy campaigners and patient groups labelled it a “rush job”, calling for protection of “NHS patients ahead of the demands of those keen to turn a profit”.

They’ve called for clarity over who will have access to data and how it will be used.

Health secretary Matt Hancock wrote an exclusive blog for Digital Health News outlining his plans for the data strategy in the health and care system. You can read the blog here.