Providing access to clinical trials closer to home

27 June 2023
Margot Mains, Lorraine Chantrill and Prof Walter Abhayaratna

Patients in regional, rural and remote areas of southern NSW will benefit from a major expansion of clinical trials, increasing access to cutting-edge treatment and research for people living in the Illawarra Shoalhaven, Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW Local Health Districts (LHDs).

Funded by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, the three LHDs, supported by ACT Health and Canberra Health Services, will establish Clinical Trial Support Units to deliver outreach services as part of the Rural, Regional and Remote Clinical Trial Enabling Program.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s (ISLHD) Director of Clinical Trials and Head of Medical Oncology Professor Lorraine Chantrill said this is an incredible opportunity for the LHDs to work together to expand their clinical trial activity.

“The program will enable increased access to innovative treatments for people across southern NSW, helping improve health outcomes for patients and contributing to the ongoing development of evidence-based care,” Prof Chantrill said.

“Traditionally, most clinical trials are delivered in metropolitan areas, however this funding will allow rural, regional and remote patients to receive the latest therapies closer to home and reduce the need to travel long distances for treatment.”

Southern NSW Local Health District’s (SNSWLHD) Director of Project Management & Service Commissioning Nicola Yates said the Clinical Trial Support Units will work closely with academic, health and industry partners to identify and prioritise research areas that will have the greatest impact on patient outcomes.

“By participating in clinical trials, patients can access new therapies that are not yet available on the market, giving them access to potentially life-saving treatments before they are widely available,’’ Ms Yates said.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s (MLHD) Director of Research Dr Barbara Taylor said that while the program is a collaboration, it will provide resources, infrastructure and support adapted to the individual needs of each local health district and its community.

“This program will provide funding across a range of areas, including research projects and equipment, as well as support for the recruitment and training of research staff,” Dr Taylor said. 

The Southern NSW Cluster is being led by Professor Walter Abhayaratna, Director of Clinical Trials at Canberra Health Services.

NSW Health’s Office for Health and Medical Research is managing this state-wide project. The Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, Rural Regional and Remote Clinical Trial Enabling Infrastructure Fund has invested $30.6 million, over five years, in this Program: improving access to innovative healthcare in rural, regional and remote NSW and ACT to support local health districts, Canberra Health Services and many other partners. Australia has a long track record in leadership in clinical trials which continues to grow, and in which NSW and ACT are key players.


Pictured above (L-R): ISLHD CE Margot Mains, ISLHD Director of Clinical Trials and Head of Medical Oncology Professor Lorraine Chantrill and Canberra Health Services Director of Clinical Trials Professor Walter Abhayaratna.