A RETIRED lecturer whose eczema was cleared after 30 years when he took part in a drug trial has welcomed a major increase in NHS research participants in the county.

New figures released today reveal there were more than 38,000 participants in studies supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in Oxfordshire in 2018/19, the highest number on record.

More than 32,000 of these were recruited by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), which was ranked second in England and is up from 20,000 last year.

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Nick Dobson, 71, from Oxford, who took part in a life-changing trial three years ago looking at whether the drug dupilumab could be used to treat his skin condition, said: “My eczema got progressively worse even though I was taking all of the creams and ointments, which are normally prescribed.

"One of the things I remember, especially when it was on my face, was that I felt as though things were crawling under my skin."

Mr Dobson, a former economics lecturer at St Andrews University in Scotland, said he did not have to think before agreeing to the trial, explaining: “I’ve always volunteered for studies and it’s never occurred to me as something not to do.

"Living in this university world you realise that research is fundamental, so I don’t like to say no.

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“It turned out I only got the half dose and still I saw an almost instant improvement."

Mr Dobson has continued taking dupilumab since completing the study and it was recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use across the NHS in August 2018.

He said: "It feels fantastic to not have eczema now and to do the trial has been a joy.

"The researchers have been very supportive and I’ve enjoyed the experience.

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"The relief of not having to scratch and apply ointment was huge.”

Data released by the NIHR shows Oxford University Hospitals recruited 32,285 participants to 534 studies in the last 12 months, compared to 20,937 to 517 studies the year before.

The figures also show that 5,921 Oxfordshire participants took part in 58 research studies in places such as GP practices - more than any other NHS Clinical Commissioning Group area in England.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, meanwhile, was ranked fourth in the country for mental health trusts, recruiting 2,891 participants to 61 studies.

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Professor Meghana Pandit, Chief Medical Officer at OUH said: "We're delighted to hear that there were more than 30,000 participants in research at our trust in the past year.

"Our research covers a wide range of medical specialities and health conditions, which has helped ensure that so many Oxfordshire residents have been given the opportunity to take part."

Patients can ask their doctor about research opportunities and search for studies seeking volunteers at bepartofresearch.uk.