Dr Daniel Butler talks about why he got involved in research and why research relies on patients getting involved too.


Clinical research is now the foundation of healthcare and is made possible thanks to the support and commitment of patients working in partnership with researchers and healthcare professionals.

The Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Research & Development (R&D) Division supports researchers based in Northern Ireland by creating, funding and enabling research that ultimately aims to improve care for everyone who uses health and social care services.

Dr Daniel Butler who has a General Practice Academic Research Training Fellowship is currently seconded to the Northern Ireland Clinical Primary Care Research Network, funded by PHA R&D Division, to work on Panoramic Trial - a UK-wide clinical study to find new treatments for COVID-19 to stop people getting poorly and going to hospital. Here he talks about why he got involved in research and how this research is benefiting his patients as well as the wider population.

“As a doctor in General Practice I get to see first-hand the difference new treatments can make to my patients and I always had an interest in the wider impact of research on improving and developing these treatments and interventions, so when the opportunity presented itself to get involved in research I took it.  

“The PHA R&D Division funding enabled me to take time out of my General Practice research training to join the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network. Through the Network, I began working as a research fellow on the Platform Adaptive trial of NOvel antiviRals for eArly treatMent of COVID-19 in the Community (Panoramic Study*).

“Despite the high uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, the disease remains widespread in the UK and around the world, with many patients continuing to require treatment in hospital or in some cases resulting in death.

 “In order for the study to happen we first needed to recruit participants and through collaborating with colleagues across HSCNI we developed a text message service which opened participation up right across Northern Ireland through a central recruitment hub. Allowing everyone in Northern Ireland to participate, regardless of where they lived.

“As a result, participation in the study in Northern Ireland has been a huge success, with over 1,000 participants being recruited across 78% of Northern Irelands GP Practices (approximately 8 out of every 10 GP Practices).

“The vital support of the participants allowed us to trial and analyse COVID-19 medications and their effectiveness. The first results of the study were published and will provide evidence to guide future healthcare policy around the appropriateness of COVID-19 medication for different patient groups and this will benefit everyone.

“I would like to thank the public who volunteered as participants in the study, as without their willingness to be part of a trial testing new treatments, studies like this would not happen. Thankfully we are now mostly living without restrictions, but the COVID-19 virus is still present and this study will make a difference.

“I would also encourage other health and social care professionals in my position to reach out and apply for a research fellowship as research needs both the participants and medical researchers. It took me a few missed opportunities before I finally applied for my first research post. I assumed there would be better candidates, so no point applying, until curiosity got the better of me and I did finally apply. This led to my first research position which has then resulted in more opportunities.

“I hope now to continue to develop my GP career treating patients one to one, as well as continuing to work on studies that have a larger impact on the wider healthcare community and patient care.

“Research is essential in knowing what the best medicines and treatments are. Just about every medicine prescribed by a doctor is based on previous research. By being involved in research we are helping answer questions on future treatments.”

To watch a video with one of the participants to the Panoramic Trial see https://twitter.com/healthdpt/status/1527654835683745798?s=20 

For more information on the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network see nicrn.hscni.net and the PANORAMIC study see https://www.panoramictrial.org (it remains open to recruitment as of spring 2023).

For more information about taking part in research please visit at bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk

Notes to the editor

Panoramic is a UK-wide clinical study sponsored by the University of Oxford and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research to find new treatments for COVID-19 to stop people getting poorly and going to hospital.