Purpose: 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).
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.