Londoners invited to join UK’s largest health research programme
Tens of thousands of Londoners will be invited to join the UK’s largest ever health research programme — which will aim to better prevent, detect, and treat conditions such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Our Future Health is an ambitious collaboration between the public sector, life sciences companies and leading UK health charities including: Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma + Lung UK, Blood Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Now, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Kidney Research UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Parkinson’s UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Osteoporosis Society and Stroke Association.
The programme’s goal is to recruit 5 million volunteers across the country, collect information from them on their health and lifestyle, and create one of the most detailed pictures we’ve ever had of people’s health. Researchers will be able to use this information to discover more effective ways to prevent, detect and treat diseases.
London is one of the first regions in the country where people can take part in the programme. From 16 November, people will be able to attend appointments in a pop-up clinic in Stratford, and in Croydon from 21 November. Volunteers can also attend appointments in Boots stores across the Capital — Kensington High Street, White City, Strand and Piccadilly Circus. People outside of the currently active regions can also join the programme now and book an appointment when more locations are added in the coming months.
Working in collaboration with NHS DigiTrials, letters are being sent to tens of thousands of people over 18 living in Greater London, giving them the option to take part. Volunteers will give their consent to join the research programme and agree to provide secure access to their health records through a secure system, complete a questionnaire and book an appointment.
At their appointment, volunteers will have a blood sample taken, plus some physical measurements. They will also be offered information about their own health, including their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In the future people who join the programme will also be given the option to receive feedback about their risk of certain diseases.
While the Greater London is one of the first regions to take part, there are plans to roll out to other regions in due course. People across the UK can sign up for the programme now and book an appointment when more locations are added in the coming months.
Amanda Cross is a Professor in Cancer Epidemiology and Head of the Cancer Screening and Prevention Research Group at Imperial College London.
“Cancer affects so many of us. It can be a devastating disease – but it doesn’t have to be. From what we know now, many cancers are preventable, and it can be a very treatable disease if we detect it early. If studies like Our Future Health can help with the early diagnosis of cancer, it will make a huge difference and I want to be part of that.”
“This study is music to my ears. We’re going to be able to look at risk factors and identify who is at risk and who isn’t and tailor our approach accordingly.”
“We know that not all cancers are the same and that risk and prognosis can differ depending on individual factors. I want to see a world where there’s a tailored approach to healthcare and cancer treatment and studies like Our Future Health will help us get there.”
“Everything we know in medicine is based on people who have put their trust in researchers and donated their data. We can’t make any progress with medical research of any sorts without volunteers. In the past, it’s been a minority but now, we have to scale up. We need as many people as possible to get on board.”
Kathryn Purcell, 51, is a yoga teacher based in London. She joined Our Future Health in the summer of 2022, at Boots in Piccadilly Circus, “As a yoga teacher, helping people to improve their wellbeing is what I do for a living. I liked the sound of this study because it will help people to live healthier lives. It’s something I wanted to be part of. ”
“We’re all living much longer, but not necessarily living well for longer. OK, you might live to 85 but you probably don’t want to be sat in an armchair all day, you want a good quality of life. I believe this kind of longitudinal study is what will help us to live longer and live well.”
“I had a really positive experience. The women at the front desk who took me through my appointment were lovely. Really friendly. They made me feel very welcome and put me at ease. It was very straightforward.”
“I think it’s so important that London gets behind this study and I hope that people in harder to reach communities will feel encouraged to take part. In order to help as many people as possible through this study, there needs to be a genuine cross-section of society taking part. The more diverse the people involved, the better quality of the results.”
“To anyone thinking about taking part, I’d say ‘do, it!’. It was so quick and easy. The staff were efficient, there was nothing to be afraid of. There’s the added bonus of getting your results, a sort of mini health check, and you’re taking part in something that could be life-changing.”
Dr Raghib Ali OBE, Chief Medical Officer of Our Future Health, said:
“Today, millions of people spend many years of their life in poor health and too often we are only able treat diseases when our patients start showing symptoms. Volunteering to join Our Future Health is an opportunity to change that. With the help of up to five million people, we’ll be able to dramatically improve our understanding of how to detect and prevent diseases so in the future everyone can live in good health for longer.”
Spokespeople and case study interviews available on request.
Notes to editors:
About Our Future Health
Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It aims to be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.
Our Future Health is committed to the highest standards, policies and processes that protect participants’ confidentiality, whilst maximising the opportunity to help researchers to tackle serious diseases. Participants’ data will be de-identified and held securely in trusted research environments that meet strict security criteria. There will be a robust and transparent access process to ensure appropriate research access to Our Future Health data and samples for registered researchers. All researchers will be held to the same standards.
Our Future Health is a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance, the independent alliance of leading healthcare and research organisations establishing best practice for the ethical use of UK health data for research at scale.
Our Future Health is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 12212468) and a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (charity number 1189681) and OSCR, Scottish Charity Regulator (charity number SC050917).
About NHS DigiTrials
Working in collaboration with NHS DigiTrials, letters are being have been sent to people over 18 living in Greater London, including Croydon and Stratford, giving them the option to take part.
NHS DigiTrials, hosted by NHS Digital, offers data services to support clinical trials. They help reduce the time, effort and cost of developing new drugs, treatments and services, bringing benefits to patients, the public and the NHS.
Opt-out from receiving an invitation – People who have previously opted out of sharing health data for planning and research purposes, by submitting a National Data Opt-out, will not receive an invitation letter to join the programme via NHS Digital (who host the NHS DigiTrials service). People who do not want to receive an invitation letter from NHS Digital can opt out by completing the form on the NHS DigiTrials webpage.