To report on the composition and performance of the portfolio of Ophthalmology research studies in the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (UK CRN).
Ophthalmology studies open to recruitment between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2018 were classified by: sub- specialty, participant age, gender of Chief Investigator, involvement of genetic investigations, commercial/ non-commercial, interventional/observational design. Frequency distributions for each covariate and temporal variation in recruitment to time and target were analysed.
Over 8 years, 137,377 participants were recruited (average of 15,457 participants/year; range: 5485–32,573) with growth by year in proportion of commercial studies and hospital participation in England (76% in 2017/18). Fourteen percent of studies had a genetic component and most studies (82%) included only adults. The majority of studies (41%) enrolled patients with retinal diseases, followed by glaucoma (17%), anterior segment and cataract (13%), and ocular inflammation (6%). Overall, 68% of non-commercial studies and 55% of commercial studies recruited within the anticipated time set by the study and also recruited to or exceeded the target number of participants.
High levels of clinical research activity, growth and improved performance have been observed in Ophthalmology in UK over the past 8 years. Some sub-specialties that carry substantial morbidity and a very high burden on NHS services are underrepresented and deserve more patient-centred research. Yet the NIHR and its CRN Ophthalmology National Specialty Group has enabled key steps in achieving the goal of embedding research into every day clinical care.