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Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
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What is research and why volunteer?

Research helps find new ways to diagnose and treat people living with heart and lung conditions

Research into cardiovascular and respiratory medicine is central to the Trust’s mission and our starting point is the needs of the patients we treat every day. By investigating the causes of their conditions and testing new ways of diagnosing and treating them, we have been responsible for many significant medical advances which have been taken up across the NHS and beyond.

Research at the Trust is usually carried out by the same doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who treat our patients. Their aim is to find better ways of looking after patients and keeping people healthy.

A leaflet from the National Institute for Health Research can be found at the bottom of this page with more information on clinical trials.


Pioneering research recognised - BRUs

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about research.

There are many types of research ongoing within the Trust. Some of it may look at the effects of standard treatments, while other research may investigate whether new treatments offer any benefit, or how the NHS can best organise and provide services.

Clinical research 

Most research in the NHS involves people, often patients, and is usually referred to as 'clinical research' or 'medical research'. One particular type of research, the clinical trial, compares the effects of two or more treatments. 

Clinical trials help to find out if:

  • treatments are safe 
  • treatments have any side effects 
  • new treatments are better than available standard treatments

Many NHS treatments have been tested in clinical trials.

Laboratory or test tube research

Before new medicines are tested in clinical trials, they are tested in laboratories. Only when laboratory research has shown that they are likely to work and unlikely to cause serious side effects will they go on to be tested in clinical trials.

The medicines will often be tested on cells taken from living tissue that are grown and kept alive artificially (cell cultures). 

Epidemiology research

Epidemiology is research that looks at patterns of illness and disease in groups of people and tries to identify the causes of disease. 

These studies may look to 

  • compare people who have a disease (cases) with people without the disease (controls)
  • see what happens to a group of people (a cohort) and to then compare those who develop a disease with those who do not 
  • identify patterns in populations and may find associations between environmental factors, such as diet, and disease
Depending on the study you may be seen by a combination of doctors, nurses, midwives and/or other healthcare professionals. 

Research is carried out in various locations around the Trust and at both hospital sites (Harefield and Royal Brompton).

There are dedicated research facilities across both sites where research is undertaken but it can also take place in clinics.

The duration of the trial and the investigations required (e.g. blood tests, x-rays) will depend on the individual study and what is being investigated. 

Any tests and treatments will be clearly explained to you before you agree to take part in a trial.

All research studies carried out at our Trust are examined and approved by a research ethics committee. They look at everything that will take place in the study and how it will be done, with a focus on the interests of patients. 

Research at the Trust can be funded in a number of ways:

  • the NHS, through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
  • the Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • medical research charities such as Asthma UK or the British Heart Foundation
  • pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies
  • it can be that the research project does not incur any additional costs and/or all resources to complete it are in place and therefore no external funding is required


You are protected in the same way no matter who funds the research. Please feel free to ask who is doing the research and who is funding the research, if this might affect your decision to take part.

All drugs may have side affects, including the ones that are routinely prescribed to patients.

In clinical trials the benefits of a drug or treatment are thoroughly explored and balanced against potential risks. The research trials are designed to keep any risks to a minimum and patients are closely monitored throughout the study. 

New drugs and treatments may have unknown side effects that are not yet known about and you will be asked to tell researchers of any illnesses or changes in your health that you notice.

It is important to bear in mind that all treatments and investigations have some degree of side-effects.

No. Taking part in any research is entirely voluntary. You must be told about the study, given an information sheet and have time to think about the study in order for you to decide if you would like to take part. The researcher will provide you with all the necessary information and they will answer any questions. You can leave the study at any time.

It is important to note that if you decide not to take part or leave a research study early your NHS treatment will not be effected and you will continue to be looked after like any other patient.

Reasons for taking part in a clinical trial vary from person to person. Some individuals take part in research to ‘give something back’ to benefit others in the future. Other people feel that they may personally benefit from the treatment and drugs they are provided with and are reassured by the close medical monitoring and check-ups provided by the researchers.

It is important to keep in mind that some research may not lead to direct patient benefit. For example you may be given a new treatment as part of a research project that turns out not to be as effective as the standard treatment. Some laboratory research is carried out to better understand a disease and may also have no direct patient benefit but may provide information to better understand a disease.

The researcher should be able to tell you when the research is complete (this can take several years depending on the study) and when the results are available. Publications from complete studies can be found on the research publications page.

Taking part in a research study can mean that individuals other than your doctor will need to access your medical records. However anyone who sees your medical records follow the same strict confidentiality guidelines that apply to all Trust staff.

All information which is collected about you during the course of the research will be kept strictly confidential. Any information about you which leaves the hospital will have your name, address and personal details removed so that you cannot be recognised from it. 

If you decide to take part in a study and with your agreement, the research team will inform your GP by letter 

If you are a patient at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust and you are interested in taking part in research please speak to your consultant.

If you are not a patient at the Trust but would like to take part in research we would encourage you to contact your GP or email us as below.

For further information on taking part in research activities or to find out more on how you can shape the research happening at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust please email research-findoutmore@rbht.nhs.uk or visit the active research studies page.