Be part of HSC research in Northern Ireland

Dr Gail Johnston, Programme Manager, HSC Research & Development Division, discusses the importance of clinical research in the fight against COVID-19. To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

Scientists in a laboratory

Today, 20 May, is International Clinical Trials Day. It is the anniversary of the day that James Lind started the first clinical trial to treat the disease of scurvy amongst his ship’s crew through a diet oranges and lemons. HSC R&D Division, and our HSC partners, have been highlighting the importance of research through public awareness campaigns. The ‘Be Part of Research’ Campaign, led by the National Institute of Health Research, aims to encourage patients, carers, public and staff to find out more about what research is taking place in Health and Social Care and the different ways they might get involved. This could be by sharing information about a study, participating in a study or helping to plan and design a study.

Researchers from all over the world, including Northern Ireland, have come together over the last several weeks in a global race to look for new drugs, treatments, vaccines, therapies and surveillance techniques to help combat COVID-19. The role of research in helping us to develop new ways of living and adjusting to life in lockdown, as well as the easing of restrictions, has become vital to informing government strategies in every country.

Recently, the four UK Chief Medical Officers, including Dr McBride, jointly stated the importance of clinical trials and the urgent need for participants to be recruited to research studies both locally and nationally. In Northern Ireland, there are currently over 100 patients recruited on COVID-19 related trials and several other projects have started to look at the physical and psychological impact on staff working at the frontline, as well as the effects of loneliness and isolation in the general population as a result of social distancing. The results of these will help us manage the longer term effects of the pandemic as well as improving the outcomes for those who may be affected in the future.

At the same time, research into other illnesses still remains important. While some of this has been put on hold due to researchers having to return to the front line, efforts are now being made across the UK to ensure that this work is restarted and continues.

In 2018/2019 over one million people took part in research. Public participation has helped provide valuable knowledge to help people live healthier and better lives now and in the future. This research helps improve health and social care provided by the HSC and others. It also helps advance medicine to find new cures and better treatments for future generations. This treatment could be a medicine, a vaccine, surgery, radiotherapy, physical and psychological therapies and methods of diagnosing disease.

This year, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency, has joined with the Patient Client Council to develop a register of people interested in taking part in research in Northern Ireland. This will help us match people interested in becoming involved in research with local researchers. You can register here:

To find out more about clinical trials that are happening in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and opportunities to take part please visit

To find out more about the work of HSC R&D Division and Personal and Public Involvement in research, please visit,

To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

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