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Scheme to simplify costing and set up of commercial clinical studies launched for GP practices

by Beth Gault
4 December 2023

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GP practices are now able to opt into a scheme that aims to speed up the process of setting up commercial clinical research studies within primary care and help boost their involvement in the field.

The National Contract Value Review (NCVR) scheme is a UK-wide programme for costing and contracting for commercial research that is led by NHS England, in partnership with other organisations including the Department of Health and Social Care; the devolved administrations; and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network.

Participation has now become available for GPs – so practices no longer have to bear the burden of costing out commercially-sponsored studies or contract negotiations and can focus on opening trials to patients quicker.

NCVR has already reduced commercial study set up times by a third, according to the NIHR.

And more than 30 practices have so far signed up to the programme.

Under the scheme, an interactive Costing Tool (iCT) is used to apply standardised pricing to the study activities.

The NIHR said the iCT works on a full cost recovery basis and ‘incorporates specific considerations of commercial trials taking place in general practice’.

Once practices are signed up, they agree to undertake no further negotiation on commercial contract studies, and instead to accept prices that are generated by the iCT. They will be expected to hold this position for a minimum of 12 months.

Participating GP practices are also listed on the NIHR website as holding a no-negotiation position. Commercial sponsors of research can view the list to support site selection decisions for future trials.

As independent contractors, practices commitment to NCVR is remains voluntary. But the NIHR said as GP practices are increasingly becoming research sites in their own right,  NCVR supports ‘this significant development’.

 ‘Fantastic opportunity’

The first practice to sign up to the programme in primary care was the University of Nottingham Health Service, which offers primary care services to students.

Dr Simon Royal, who runs the practice’s research team, said NCVR enables it ‘to benefit from the knowledge and experience of NHS costing experts’ and ensures they get ‘appropriately remunerated’ while ‘freeing up our time to focus on other aspects of our work’.

‘We think this will benefit our participants and our patients and make us more efficient in the study start-up process,’ he added.

‘I also think it has potential to bring more clinical research to the UK and, since it offers a level playing field, I hope it will help us bring studies to communities and populations that would not normally benefit from such opportunities.’

Dr Sam Davies, GP partner at another participating practice, West Walk Surgery, Bristol, has been a principal investigator for more than 30 studies for South Gloucestershire Medical Research Unit.

He describes the contracts and costings process during the setup of research studies in general practice as ‘challenging and time-consuming’ and highlights it also has ‘the potential to create conflict at an early stage of a new collaboration between site and sponsor’.

He explained that: ‘The NCVR represents a fantastic opportunity for primary care to take advantage of nationally negotiated terms.  It should free up site time and expedite study setup, contributing to efficient recruitment and improved relationships, whilst ensuring our work is appropriately remunerated.’