Primary Care

The NI Clinical Research Network (NICRN) undertakes Primary Care research throughout Northern Ireland. The NICRN is part of a UK-wide initiative to provide opportunities for patients and clinicians to participate in high-quality clinical research. Engaging with primary care practitioners and their patients from across all areas of primary care.

The NICRN aims to:

  • Promote primary care research within Northern Ireland
  • Attract clinical trials in primary care to Northern Ireland
  • Conduct clinical trials to the highest standards of quality and safety
  • Provide infrastructure to facilitate the start-up of new trials in primary care
  • Improve access for patients to cutting-edge treatments


Areas of interest include the following:

  • Chronic disease management
  • Providing access to novel therapies
  • Improving the quality of patient care
  • Early diagnosis of disease
  • Health promotion and disease prevention

Professor Nigel Hart – General Practice / QUB

Primary Care – Clinical Lead

Nigel Hart is a Belfast General Practitioner with an academic role in Queen’s University. He has been involved in research since he was a trainee, combining clinical and research responsibilities in these roles.

As a GP Partner he undertook the role of PI for a number of CTIMP studies (Clinical Trial of an Investigational Medicinal Product) in clinical Practice. As an academic he leads on a number of research themes that are situated in and focused on Primary Care.

Prof Hart has provided informal support to the NICRN (Primary Care) group since 2016, formally taking on the co-lead role in January 2020. In the role of co-lead he liaises with the small team of dedicated research nurses and works collaboratively with a diverse group of key stakeholders, research practices and researchers at every stage of the research process.

Prof Hart is committed to the successful participation and contribution of Primary Care and General Practice in Northern Ireland to play its role in the clinical research endeavours of the Northern Ireland community, and to ensure that people in NI have the opportunity to be informed of and to participate in, high quality research. 

Contact email:

Claire Leathem – Clinical Research Nurse – BHSCT

Primary Care – Clinical Lead

Claire Leathem has almost 40 years’ experience working in Primary Care, over 30 of which within established research programmes in General Practice. Claire’s research career began with the Medical Research Councils’ General Practice Research Framework (MRC-GPRF), a UK-wide network of approx. 900 general practices participating in clinical trials and health services research. Initially working as a clinical research nurse and laterally as their Regional Trainer for Northern Ireland.

Undertaking further principle roles, Claire gained considerable clinical and research experience as an on-the-ground practitioner, practice trainer and manager. This has included a wide-range of therapy areas, academic studies, pharmaceutical trials and charity studies.

In her role as the NICRN (Primary Care) Manager she manages a small team of dedicated research nurses ensuring the aims of the NICRN are met. Working collaboratively with a diverse group of key stakeholders and facilitating practices and researchers at every stage of the research process. Fundamental to her practice is ensuring that patients in NI have the opportunity to be informed of and participate in high quality research. 

Alongside her research work, she has extensive experience training post-registration clinical trial nurses and for many years has taught on the General Practice Module within undergraduate medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.

Claire has been a co-lead for the Clinical Research Network since 2016. Contact email: