Oxford Health is among five leading mental health trusts in England who have launched a partnership aimed at revolutionising dementia research in the UK.

Researchers across South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, West London Mental Health NHS Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust will use software developed by the NHS using National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding that takes information from patients’ records without revealing sensitive information that could identify them or their carers.

D-CRIS: the Dementia Clinical Record Interactive Search is a world-leading resource that was first developed at the NIHR Dementia Biomedical Research Unit at SLaM and the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. It will enable large datasets to be pooled so that research can be conducted at scale, providing researchers with access to one million patient records and enabling them to identify trends in the data and investigate why treatments work for some patients and are not as effective for others.

Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems hold a wealth of rich clinical patient data. D-CRIS transforms this data into a pseudonymised database appropriate for research use. This comprises data recorded in coded and structured form, including dates and scores, plus data held in unstructured free text form, for example, within written assessments, progress notes and correspondence. 

The project is part of the Strategy for UK Life Sciences, which outlines an ambitious vision to promote the UK as a competitive global hub for life sciences, enabling an environment where the NHS, academia, industry and patients work collaboratively.

D-CRIS has received ethical approval from an independent committee outside the trusts, as a safe, secure and confidential information source for research.

Stuart Bell CBE, Chief Executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Together, using D-CRIS, we have a wealth of information and expertise that promises new insights and real advances in care and treatment for people in the UK and beyond. This supports Oxford’s commitment to research and to working in partnership with our NHS, academic and industry colleagues, to benefit our patients and the wider public we serve.”

Dr Matthew Patrick, Chief Executive at SLaM, said:

“This is an exciting and ambitious collaboration that builds on CRIS, a resource developed by the NHS for the NHS. It will make the most of patient data held by the NHS, a valuable and rich resource which holds promising potential to enhance the UK’s world-class research and lead to improved patient care.

 “D-CRIS software means we can now link information about patients’ conditions directly with their treatment and care, helping to improve their health. For example, for those with schizophrenia, we will be able to identify whether there are some drugs which are associated with less time spent in hospital and have better outcomes for some people. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.”

Rudolf Cardinal, Clinical Lecturer, Psychiatry, Cambridge University said:

“I am delighted that the NHS is working across organisational boundaries to conduct this research. D-CRIS allows us to unlock ways of working that would be impossible using information on paper records.  For example, as part of the project colleagues are investigating trends in the diagnosis of dementia. Using D-CRIS we can look at individual symptom types that are most common.

“The sky is the limit with D-CRIS – we have created a world-leading resource for dementia that will give researchers the clout to spot trends and see what treatments work for some and not for others. “

Wendy Wallace, Chief Executive, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Being able to pool data and resources in this way means that our research has greater validity, both in terms of results and impact. Any research trials that we conduct will now be across a research population of one million – the impact on improving patient treatment and care will be significant.

“This is why I am delighted that D-CRIS is being launched today with the full involvement of my trust. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this partnership.”

Steve Shrubb, Chief Executive of the West London Mental Health NHS Trust said:

D-CRIS is a powerful tool that allows us to advance our clinical trials work whilst also ensuring that participants receive the highest levels of support. We’re looking forward to the benefits that D-CRIS will bring.

“The system has been developed with extensive service user involvement, and allows us to determine what treatments work for some and not for others. It will also significantly increase available data to researchers and the participation of other NHS organisations will mean that we will have access to much wider, richer data to assess the most effective treatment for dementia.”