Research manager Alex Punter — trying to raise the profile of research carried out on the Island.
DURING 2013, more than 1,000 patients from the Island took part in 43 essential clinical studies, designed to research medical conditions, trial new methods of treatment and new drugs.
As the IW NHS Trust recently received nearly £400,000 as part of its annual funding for clinical research and trials, the County Press has looked at some of the pioneering studies taking place on the Island.
The money, allocated by the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) new Clinical Research Network for the Wessex area — which covers the Island, Hampshire, South Wiltshire and Dorset — goes to support clinical trials on the Island, including a research office and the doctors and nurses who carry out the studies.
Alex Punter, research management and governance manager, said: "During 2012-13 we had many studies, including some into diabetes, cancer, stroke, ophthalmology as well as asthma and allergy at the David Hide Centre.
"Also, as has been highlighted nationally, over the next year we will be working with dementia patients and the memory service to develop our dementia research."
Clinical trials on the Island have ranged from testing the long-term safety of drugs, to the health risks and benefits of an extended working life, to the type of clothing child patients prefer their doctors to wear.
During the research and clinical trials, a patient’s involvement can vary dramatically.
Mrs Punter said: "For example, in a diabetes trial, a patient would come into their ordinary diabetes clinic, where they might give a blood sample and that would be it.
"If they’re trialling a drug, then that study might involve two, three or four visits over a few months and perhaps a follow-up after a year."
As well as providing education and treatment, the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre carries out a variety of research, including the internationally renowned Birth Cohort Study, which followed babies born in 1989 and their parents to see how allergies were passed on.
Director of the centre Prof Hasan Arshad, with Prof Graham Roberts, who started the study, explained the youngsters involved had been studied at intervals throughout their lives and after speaking to one of the recruits, it had developed into a unique third generation study.
Prof Arshad said: "When we recruited the babies, we also recruited their parents. It became a third generation study when we were speaking to one of our recruits when she was 18 she said 'I’m pregnant, will my child be in the study as well?’
"We know allergies pass through generations but we want to learn how."
Through the study some unexpected results have been discovered.
"If you smoke, it isn’t just your children that might be affected but we have learnt it could affect your grandchildren too," Prof Arshad said.
He added: "The IW is the ideal place to study allergy, as it is a well-defined place, being an island, the population is stable, there is just one hospital and everyone is very keen and enthusiastic to participate in the research we do."
The results of another study at the centre, involving vaccinating against allergies, will be presented in June at an international conference in Copen-hagen.
Another study into long-term syndrome fibromyalgia — which causes pain all over the body — has used rare and expensive equipment to study the cause, changes to the central nervous system and the brain.
Dr Gary Lee, consultant clinical psychologist in anaesthetics, who leads the study, said: "We’re using a number of methods for the study but the most exciting is with the MRI scanner.
"It has been adapted so we can now do functional MRI scanning where the images glow when parts of the brain are being used. The images are very beautiful."
He added: "It’s pioneering, especially for a trust like ours, and we’re collaborating with others including Southampton University and Imperial College as well as other departments such as radiology and the chronic pain service."
Mrs Punter said: "We’re quite fortunate, as having this special equipment such as the functional MRI scanner could generate income by bringing people over to our hospital to use our kit."
As well as developing understanding and treatments, Dr Lee believes clinical research and trials are also important to encourage collaboration between trusts and to inspire the doctors and nurses who develop the projects.
The NHS stressed that clinical trials are an everyday part of its work and the research is carried out by the very same medical professionals who treat patients. These doctors and nurses are funded by the money allocated by the NIHR, so money is not taken from the IW NHS Trust’s care budget.
According to Mrs Punter, historically patients were approached by clinical staff to see if they would be interested in taking part in trials and research but more recently the ball has been very much in the patient’s court.
To mark last year’s International Clinical Trials Day on May 20 — a day designed to coincide with the anniversary of the first ever clinical trial, which discovered the cure for scurvy and was completed by Scottish naval surgeon James Lind — the NIHR launched the 'It’s OK to ask’ campaign.
The ongoing campaign was aimed at encouraging patients to ask their family doctor, nurse or consultant about clinical research and trials they could qualify to take part in.
Mrs Punter said: "We’re trying to raise the profile of what we do here with research. When we send out appointment letters, we will include a leaflet to let patients know we’re a research active hospital and we’re putting up posters around the hospital.
"We are also developing a website so people can log on and find a summary of the studies happening within the trust and the contact details they need to get involved."
The website will be launched within the next month and can be found at www.iow.nhs.uk.