New campaign highlights it’s ‘OK to ask’

New campaign highlights it’s ‘OK to ask’

‘It’s ok to ask about clinical research’ is the message from the launch of the public awareness campaign to encourage patients, carers and the public to ask healthcare professionals if there is a study they might be suitable for.

The Public Health Agency’s R&D Division invited local researchers, health and social care professionals and patients to highlight the ‘OK to ask’ campaign which coincided with International Clinical Trials Day on 20 May. It was on this date in 1747 that the first clinical trial was conducted by naval surgeon James Lind who discovered that giving sailors fruit improved their scurvy.

Lind’s trial provides a focal point to raise awareness of the importance of research to healthcare and highlights how partnerships between patients and healthcare practitioners are vital for high-quality, relevant research. Clinical trials have developed a great deal since Lind's discovery and it is important we remember his work and acknowledge the need for research in healthcare.

People in Northern Ireland have access to high-quality clinical trials across all trust areas and primary care. For example, the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network and the Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Network bring together health and social care professionals, academics, industry, voluntary organisations, patients and members of the public. The work they undertake not only seeks to provide evidence on the best outcomes for patients, but also attracts major funding and economic investment into Northern Ireland.

It is essential that clinical trials and other forms of research are undertaken to question whether there may be better, safer and more effective ways of doing things within healthcare than how things are currently being done.

Currently, more than 1 in 5 patients diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland participate in clinical trials, and between April 2008 and September 2013 some 6,400 people took part. For other disease areas, over 25,000 people have had the opportunity to participate in trials locally.

However, more participants are needed every day and through this campaign we hope to increase this number.

Supporting the launch, Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of HSC Research and Development and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health, said: “The willingness of people to take part in clinical research allows new diagnostics, medicines or healthcare practices to be tested. This is essential for progress to be made towards more effective and safer healthcare. On International Clinical Trials Day we acknowledge and commend everybody who takes part in a clinical trial and hope to encourage others to do so too.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride, who attended the launch, commented: “Clinical Trials are crucial to the development of a range of new treatments. Participating in clinical trials can benefit individual patients and contribute to improving the future treatment of others. Partnerships between patients and healthcare practitioners are essential for high-quality research which translates into better and more effective treatment and care.”

Further information

For more on the campaign go to

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Notes to the editor

Mrs Margaret Grayson, Chair NI Cancer Consumer Forum; Dr Gillian Shorter, MRC Methodology Hub, Queen’s University and University of Ulster; Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, Public Health Agency, HSC R&D Division; Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Department of
Health, Social Services and Public Safety; Professor Ian Young, Professor of Medicine and Director of Research, Belfast HSC Trust; Professor Donna Fitzsimons, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and University of Ulster; Mrs Lynn Murphy, Manager, NI Clinical Trials Unit; Professor Joe O’Sullivan, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Queen’s University.