What is the Reconstructive Surgery Trials Network?
The RSTN is the UK clinical trials and collaborative research network for plastic surgery and hand surgery. It is for all levels of clinician, including medical students through to consultants. It aims to improve the evidence base for the treatments we provide patients.
It is part of the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s initiative to encourage multicentre clinical trials in surgery. Abhilash Jain was appointed as the Surgical Specialty Lead for Plastic and Hand Surgery by The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (BAPRAS) and The British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH). His aims to encourage a culture of clinical trials and multicentre national collaboration.
How can the RSTN help me?
Both patients and clinicians benefit from participating in clinical trials.
This initiative gives our members direct access to surgical trials units. These units will provide support throughout the process from the initial project proposal through to analysis of trial data. The RSTN will help facilitate this by acting as a link between designated surgical trials centres and national clinical research networks within BAPRAS and the BSSH.
This initiative must be inclusive and therefore it is open to all levels of healthcare professional, especially trainees. It is a valuable resource for members as we now have direct access to epidemiologists, trials methodologists and statisticians experienced in running trials.
Is the NHS funding trials?
Clinical trials are the foundation for evidence-based medicine. In recognition, the NHS has allocated £1 billion per year until 2016 to support multicentre clinical trials research. The number and quality of surgical trials have lagged behind those of medical specialties. Plastic Surgery is a small speciality with approximately 420 consultants and 270 trainees. Similarly, current membership of The British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH) is below 500. The Royal College of Surgeons has started an initiative to develop a nationwide surgical clinical trials portfolio. This is being facilitated by clinical Trials units at Oxford, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool/Manchester and Barts/The London. In addition, Surgical Specialty Leads (SSLs) were appointed to develop trial networks within their specialty.
How is RSTN funded?
The RSTN is supported by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, BAPRAS and the BSSH. It receives funding to provide an annual educational meeting but not to fund trials.
Will the RSTN fund my trial?
The RSTN is not a grant awarding body. What we can provide is access to the expertise of the Surgical Trials Units. They should help strengthen your methodology and improve your chances of gaining funding from the NIHR or similar organisation.
In some cases the RSTN will support applications to BAPRAS and the BSSH to gain funding for a trial.
Who can get involved?
This initiative is for every level of clinician. One key aim is to encourage trainees to develop and lead clinical trials, as has been achieved in other specialities. Clinical trials methodology will become part of the surgical curriculum and experience of clinical trials will be important for NHS consultant appointments.
The principal investigator for a trial has to be a consultant to lead ethics and funding applications. We encourage trainees to be the main driver in a trial and play an active role in every stage. Medical students can get involved in the less patient focused aspects.
What will I get out of it?
There is potential to make a great difference to patient care by contributing to evidence based medicine through a high quality trial.
What you put in, is what you get out. There is potential for presentations, publications, courses, WBAs and more. Participation in clinical trials is a talking point for interviews and will become increasingly important for revalidation.
Will my name be on a publication?
This is decided at the start by each trial team. The RSTN stance is that each trial managed through us should have the key individuals named at the start followed by ‘on behalf of the Reconstructive Surgery Trials Network’. All individuals involved in the trial are listed as authors under the RSTN later in the article. This means that everyone gains a valid publication. The same goes for presentations.