Patients attending Dorset County Hospital (DCH) have been given more access to better care, services and treatments following a significant increase in research activity last year, according to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The NIHR Research Activity League Table provides a picture of research activity across all NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) regions in England.

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust recruited over 1,300 participants into research studies in 2017/18, a 33% increase on 2016/17 and more than ever before.

Marilyn Webb, from Weymouth, took part in a research study after being diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer in November 2008. Starting in the milk-producing glands of the breast, it accounts for up to 15% of all breast cancers in the UK. Following a mastectomy to remove her left breast, Marilyn was given the opportunity to take part in the study being delivered at DCH:

“When I attended my first appointment with a breast cancer oncologist, I was asked if I would like to enter the SUPREMO breast cancer trial, which aims to establish the benefits of postoperative radiotherapy to the chest wall in patients who are at intermediate risk of recurrence,” explains Marilyn.

“Whilst I had no lymph nodes affected by cancer, there were other features which increased the risk of it recurring and I agreed to take part. Anti-cancer drugs in the form of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy were given to me as part of my treatment and I then had radiotherapy to treat the site of the mastectomy operation.” 

Since taking part in the study, which was delivered with the support of the NIHR, Marilyn is keen to promote the benefits of taking part in research by sharing her story with others:

“Since my breast cancer operation, I have received wonderful care and support from the dedicated nurses in the DCH clinical trials department, who visited me at all my chemotherapy sessions and always attended all my clinic appointments.  

“They were always so compassionate and friendly. The advice they gave me was invaluable and I am certain that being in the SUPREMO study has made coping with the after effects of breast cancer so much easier to bear.  

“I hope that by being a patient ambassador and sharing my story, I can now provide other cancer sufferers with the same wonderful support that I have been given by the DCH trials team.” 

The NIHR Research Activity League Table data, which includes how much clinical research is happening, where, in what types of trusts, and involving how many patients, can be found on the NIHR website.

The table is accessible to anyone wanting to understand how much research activity is happening in their local trust or CCG region. Nationally, 53% of NHS trusts and 48% of CCG regions increased their research activity in 2017/18.

Dr Zoe Sheppard, Head of Research at DCH, said:

“Research and Innovation at Dorset County Hospital had a fantastic year in 2017/18.  We recruited well above our expected recruitment target, recruiting a record breaking number of participants into research studies – an amazing achievement for a small district general hospital. 

“The team worked extremely hard and pulled out all the stops so a huge thank you to everyone involved and hope we can continue to build on this.”  

Rebecca McKay, chief operating officer of the local NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN), which helps to increase opportunities for patients to take part in research, said:

“This increase in research activity is a fantastic achievement for Dorset County Hospital. Year on year, the NIHR Research Activity League Table shows that more patients are being offered the opportunity to participate in research, and the benefits in terms of patient care and treatment development are enormous.”