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Clinical Trials Service

Following commitments made to the Life sciences: industrial strategy, and publication of the Life Sciences Sector Deal 2. NHS Digital is developing a suite of services to support clinical trials. The first is NHS DigiTrials, the health data research hub for clinical trials.  

About NHS DigiTrials

Clinical trials enable the development of new and improved treatments to save and transform lives. They are hugely important, but can be difficult to establish and run. NHS DigiTrials will provide data, expertise and infrastructure to enable efficient and high quality clinical trials.

Our ambition in partnership with the University of Oxford Big Data Institute, IBM and Microsoft is to:

  • support more opportunities for participation in research
  • lower costs for developing new treatments
  • reduce drug costs to the NHS
  • improve the quality of information to patients and their doctors.

The first phase, running to March 2021, is a feasibility service to enable a rapid assessment of the number and location of eligible patients through secure analysis of clinical and demographic data sets.

This is being designed around the needs of clinical trialists and patients, who are being engaged throughout, including active participation in key decision making.

What the services aim to do

These services aim to:

  • greatly speed up the recruitment process and reduce the number of recruitment centres
  • significantly reduce the cost and complexity of late phase trials
  • remove the risk of early decisions based on limited data available
  • achieve comprehensive data collection for participants

NHS Digital is well placed to support clinical trials due to the scale and reach of the datasets held in trust for the nation.

Future scope

Tracking for contact details

Enabling clinical trials to maintain and communicate with all trial participants during and after the trial.

Tracking for clinical outcomes

Ensuring that clinical trials are informed of major life events for trial participants.

NHS DigiTrials board

A board convenes on a monthly basis to provide scrutiny, governance, challenge and direction for the evolving DigiTrials service.

Membership is comprised from the four host partners (NHS Digital, University of Oxford, IBM and Microsoft) alongside industry and patient and public representatives.

We are committed to transparency through the board and minutes will be routinely published for review.

Minutes from the board meeting on 31 January 2020

Minutes from the board meeting on 28 February 2020. 

Data rights of citizens

Improving health and care relies on better pathways and treatments. These are validated by carefully controlled clinical trials. NHS Digital aims to support researchers to make the best use of the data we hold in trust to select the most appropriate participants. This not only reduces the cost of the trial but should also improve the quality of the study leading to better pathways and treatments in the future.

All of the above services protect individuals’ data rights and only take place where there is an appropriate legal framework in place. Find out how NHS Digital make sure patient data is protected and handled securely.

How to apply to use the services

To apply to use any of the clinical trials services you can:


Phone: 0300 303 5678 to arrange an initial discussion. Existing DARS customers can also contact their assigned Case Officer for further information.

Last edited: 30 March 2020 12:52 pm