Clinical trials provide the essential links between basic scientific research and the eventual translation and implementation of discoveries or evidence into routine clinical care. They can resolve uncertainties about disease management and provide impetus for the discontinuation of low value care. Most importantly, clinical trials can give hope to patients who have not responded to conventional treatment by providing access to leading specialists and innovative therapies, typically resulting in better health outcomes.

Yet despite their enormous value, clinical trials in Australia often face considerable challenges.

Their performance and productivity can be limited by cost and complexity, as well as regulatory, ethical and governance requirements. In addition, clinical trials are sometimes constrained by difficulties in recruiting enough patients, and by shortfalls in the supply, capacity and capability of trials staff.

Sydney Health Partners is working at local, state and national levels to support improvements in clinical trials capacity and recruitment.

Clinical Trials Resources

Sydney Health Partners has developed a series of resources for anyone who wants to learn more about running clinical trials. Our resources cover common terminology, strategies for recruiting participants, checklists for common requirements, and information about applying for ethics and governance in NSW.

Improving Clinical Trial Recruitment

We are collaborating with Northern Sydney Local Health District to test a centralised recruitment service for clinical trials which will assess different recruitment strategies across three musculoskeletal clinical trials.

Securing enough appropriate participants is crucial to the success of a clinical trial. Reviews have shown that recruitment estimates are often inaccurate, and the required number of participants is not achieved. Consequently, the power of the study can be weakened, the trial can take longer to meet its targets requiring more resources than planned, or the trial fails to be completed.

Reflecting SHP’s leadership in the consumer and community space, it was invited by OHMR to submit a proposal to contribute towards increasing consumer participation in NSW clinical trials.

The project is a partnership with Health Consumers NSW and the NSW Rural Health Research Network, with an intention that the resulting clinical trials recruitment resources will be made available throughout the state.

Clinical Trial Audit

In 2018 SHP undertook an audit of clinical trial activity across the Partnership. The audit combined quantitative data about the scale of the activity with qualitative information provided by research ethics and governance managers, clinical trial investigators and coordinators, and industry partners. The key themes that emerged were the need to improve recruitment, training, job security and retention of trials staff, as well as supporting investigators with better access to clinical trials expertise.

Capacity building in NSW

In 2016, Australia’s Health Ministers agreed to reform the clinical trials sector through regional redesign. With the support of the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research (OHMR), Sydney Health Partners is working with the two translation centres in NSW to address some of the issues impacting clinical trials performance, including workforce planning and better methodology for clinical trials design.

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