Research in our ICU

On the ICU at Royal Free London, our mission is to improve clinical outcomes, quality of treatment and the patient experience by delivering world-class healthcare, clinical research and teaching excellence.

Healthcare research can help us to:

  • identify those people at risk of getting ill and helping everyone to prevent illness
  • improve our knowledge and understanding of different medical conditions
  • provide the best advice and treatments, thereby improving clinical outcomes
  • improve health and wellbeing
  • develop new treatments

About our research

We may conduct studies comparing one treatment to another, known as clinical trials, including:

  • testing new drugs, machines or investigations 
  • testing current treatments in a new or different way

We may also examine other approaches to disease prevention and cure, including:

  • collecting information in the form of questionnaires
  • collecting clinical information from patient records and notes
  • collecting blood or other specimens from patient

The research team

The team is made up of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. We are committed to ensuring that patients and their relatives, partners and friends have the opportunity to be involved and/or participate in clinical research.

Frequently asked questions about research

Why have I been approached about a study that the patient could be involved in while they are in the intensive care unit?

The patient may have been selected to take part in a study based on a number of factors. However, it may be that we feel they are unable to decide whether to participate in this research. This may be due to the severity of their illness or because they are receiving sedative drugs as part of their treatment. To help decide if they should join the study, we would ask your opinion on whether or not they would want to take part. We will ask you to consider what you know of their wishes and feelings, and to consider their interests.

What do I need to do if the patient is asked to join a trial?

We will always discuss the purpose of the study with you, what it involves and why we feel the patient is eligible. We will give you an information sheet and the opportunity to ask any questions. Please read the information carefully and give your opinion as to whether or not you think the patient would be willing to participate in this research study. You may wish to discuss this with others.

Please be aware that due to the nature of our studies, we will sometimes ask for your opinion as soon as possible, sometimes within 24 hours.

When the patient has regained the ability to make decisions and to understand the purpose of the study, we will explain it to them and seek their permission to continue participation. Their decision to continue or withdraw from the study could then override any advice you may have given the research team.

What if I do not feel able to give an opinion?

It is up to you to decide whether or not you wish to provide us with advice about the patient. If you feel unable to do this, the research team may approach a medical professional, independent of the study, known as a nominated consultee, to give an opinion. We do appreciate your time and consideration of the information that has been given.

I would like the patient to participate in the study. What happens next?

The research team will meet with you again to answer any further questions. If you are happy to proceed you will be asked to sign a personal consultee declaration form, giving approval on behalf of the patient for their participation in the trial.

What may happen if the patient does take part?

Specific information about the study will be provided on an information sheet. The research team will discuss this with the intensive care consultant and any other relevant medical and surgical teams looking after the patient, to ensure they are all aware of the study.

The research team will visit the patient frequently while they are in the study, so if you have any questions or concerns, you will be able to speak to them.

You can withdraw the patient from the study at any time without giving a reason. Not taking part or withdrawing from the study will not affect the care they receive.

Who approves the study?

All our research studies are carefully designed by healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses.

To protect the patient’s safety, rights, wellbeing and dignity, our research studies

must be reviewed and approved by an independent group called the Research Ethics Committee (REC), as well as the Health Research Authority (HRA) and the Royal Free London Research and Development Department. They oversee the running of the study and ensure it is being performed safely and according to plan.

What are the possible benefits of taking part?

The research may not directly help the patient, but it will provide information to help people in the future. It is important to note that each study is different in its design and methods. This will be explained to you.

What are the possible risks of taking part?

When a research study is designed, every effort is made to eliminate any risk to patients. Each study is different so the risks will vary and this will be explained to you by the research team. The research team will closely monitor the patient throughout the study period.

Is the information you collect from the patient kept confidential?

We often use information from medical records during research and the research team will act as the data controllers for this study. This means that we are responsible for looking after medical information and using it properly. We will use the minimum amount of personally identifiable information and it will be held securely on paper and electronically. 

This information will be available to hospital staff, who have been authorised to work on the study. It may also be made available to external organisations authorised by the sponsor – the people responsible for ensuring that the study is carried out correctly. Further details of how we collect and store data for the purpose of the study is outlined in the study information sheet you will have been given.

Will I be able to see the results?

Yes. Once the research has been completed, the results will be published and made available. Please contact the research team if you would like this to be sent to you.

What if I have concerns?

If you have any concerns about any aspect of our studies, please speak to a member of the research team. They will do their best to answer your questions. You can also speak with the consultant in charge of the care of the patient in the ICU.

Contact the intensive care research team:

Tel: 020 7794 0500 (Internal ext: 24534, 39673)

Intensive Care Research Office
4th Floor, Intensive Care Unit
Royal Free Hospital
Pond Street

If you still have a concern, please speak to our patient advice and liaison service (PALS):

Patient Advice and Liaison service (PALS)

At the Royal Free Hospital, the PALs team are located in the hospital’s main reception.

Phone: 020 7472 6446 or 020 7472 6447     
The service is open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

At Barnet Hospital, the PALs team can be contacted as follows:
Phone: 07929 790604 or 07929 790603 – Mondays (9.30am – 4pm)
Phone: 0208 216 4924 Tues – Fri (9am – 4pm)

Please note the PALS team is currently working remotely due to COVID-19Visit the PALS pages on our website for contact details and more information.

For more information on NHS research, these websites may be helpful:

NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) is the research arm of the NHS that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation through research.