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UK to Launch New NIHR Research Delivery Network in 2024 to Improve Patient Care

Written by : Jayati Dubey

November 16, 2023

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The NIHR RDN strives to enhance the national research system by delivering high-quality research to improve patient care. Operating across healthcare settings, it ensures efficient research initiation and delivery.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has unveiled plans to launch a new NIHR Research Delivery Network (RDN) in 2024, aimed at facilitating the successful delivery of health and social care research in England.

This network will support studies funded by government, industry, and charitable organisations, ensuring a dynamic portfolio of research opportunities for patients. The government's strategy is focused on making the UK the premier destination for commercial companies to introduce new treatments and technologies.

A review conducted by Lord O'Shaughnessy in May 2023 outlined a blueprint for the UK to regain its global leadership role in commercial clinical trials. The newly proposed RDN will play a vital role in establishing a robust connection between the healthcare industry and the National Health Service (NHS).

Following an open competition, the University of Leeds has been selected as the NIHR Research Delivery Network Coordinating Centre (RDNCC) supplier. The contract is set to run until March 31, 2029.

Additionally, 12 new Regional Research Delivery Networks (RRDNs), hosted by NHS organisations across the country, will be established, with their contracts scheduled to begin on October 1, 2024.

Together, these components will form the NIHR Research Delivery Network, operating as a unified organisation across England. The network's joint leadership approach will balance regional context, expertise, and leadership with national coordination and strategy involving DHSC policymakers.

The primary goal of the NIHR RDN is to support the country's research system in delivering high-quality research that enhances patient care. It will operate across the health and care system, with staff stationed in various healthcare settings to facilitate effective and efficient initiation and delivery of research.

This initiative aims to benefit individuals receiving care now and in the future, supporting the NHS, providing care services, and contributing to the UK's economic growth.

The NIHR RDN builds on the successes of its predecessor, the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN). The CRN played a pivotal role in strengthening England's research delivery system, supporting the successful delivery of studies, and contributing to the significant expansion of health research participation.

Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive of the NIHR, said, "The new NIHR Research Delivery Network is designed to provide an enhanced, consistent service for all those involved in research delivery. It includes part of a system wide drive to increase commercial clinical trials, ensuring we work more effectively than ever with the life sciences industry to deliver the best, most cutting-edge health and care research for the British public, alongside research funded by the government and charities.".

Lindsey Hughes, director of Research at NHS England, emphasised the collaborative efforts with the new NIHR RDN Coordinating Centre and the RRDNs. The RRDNs, aligning with Integrated Care Systems footprints, aim to simplify engagement with support for Integrated Care System research leaders.

In planning the new NIHR RDN, stakeholder input was carefully considered to ensure a consistent, customer-focused approach. The NIHR RDN will adapt to the evolving domestic and global environment in health and care, life sciences, and research design and delivery. It will focus on continuous improvement, innovation, and active involvement in implementing government policies.

The transition from the CRN to the RDN is expected to meet the current and future needs of the country's research system, enhancing capacity and capability for health and wealth advancement. The RDN will offer an improved study support service, providing better access to research infrastructure for the life sciences industry and researchers.

The collaborative efforts of Regional RDNs and the RDN Coordinating Centre are designed to deliver a more effective end-to-end service for stakeholders.

The NIHR RDN will enhance equality of opportunity for individuals to participate in research, ensuring research activity aligns with patient and service user needs. It will strive to conduct research in communities facing the most significant disease burden, collaborating with patients, carers, the public, investigators, and study sites.


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