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Ophthalmology research in the UK’s National Health Service: the structure and performance of the NIHR’s Ophthalmology research portfolio



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.

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Members of the NIHR Ophthalmology Specialty Group are listed before the references.


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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Members of the NIHR Ophthalmology Specialty Group:

Jane Ashworth, Clare Bailey, Susan Downes, Louise Downey, Sheena George, Irene Gottlob, Christopher Hammond, Simon Harding, Jonathan Jackson, Andrew Lotery, Martin McKibbin, Luke Membrey, Pádraig J. Mulholland, Nishal Patel, George M. Saleh, Roshini Sanders, Giuliana Silvestri, Velota Sung, Deepali Varma, Marcella Votruba, Emma Worrell, Brinda Shah, Ian Nickson, Michael Beresford, Vanessa Poustie, Emma Chambers, Sarah Cooper, Cathy Yelf, Geraldine Hoad, Michele Acton, Louise Gow, Matt Broom, Christine Dickinson, Padraig Mulholland, Manjo Doug, Robert Barry

Correspondence to Rupert R. A. Bourne.

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