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Home » TOP-CAT: Towards Optimising Practice: Courses for heAlth systems data in Trials

TOP-CAT: Towards Optimising Practice: Courses for heAlth systems data in Trials

Principal Investigator

Professor Mike Robling


HDR UK is the national institute for health data science, established in 2018 by a consortium of nine UK core funders. HDR UK’s mission is to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives. It brings together over 700 people across 87 organisations, 32 locations and multiple sectors.

For their second five-year spell of funding, Cardiff University will be working with HDR UK to help deliver the ‘Transforming Data For Trials’ (TDfT) workstream. Broadly, this workstream aims to:

  • Establish and support best practice for the use of Healthcare Systems Data (HSD) in clinical trials;
  • Identify and remove barriers to the widespread adoption of HSD approaches.

The team at Cardiff will work with HDR UK’s training team to develop a broad spectrum of training outputs that are aimed at both trial teams, trial delivery staff, public partners and HSD custodians. Training will aim to improve access to, and use of, HSD in trials.

Cardiff-led training

Training modules will typically comprise of a series of scripted bite-sized videos (2-3 minutes), giving an overview of the topic area, and signposting of resources and further reading for those who want to learn more. Training will be free to access and hosted on HDR UK’s Futures training portal.

Individual training modules will be developed by identifying and working closely with subject matter experts, as well as utilising the experience of the team in Cardiff and the wider workstream.

It’s important that the public voice is represented in all of the training modules – there will be an established public advisory group of around 10-15 public partners, recruited from across the four devolved nations, and representing a diverse range of views. This group will provide advice and feedback on potential topic areas and oversight on the development of individual modules.

Training topic areas

Identification of topic areas will be guided by parallel development of a ‘Route-map for trials using healthcare systems data”, led by colleagues in Oxford and Dundee. The team will also work with the wider workstream’s “Trials Stakeholder Prioritisation Forum”, “Trials Community Insight Group” and our own public advisory group to prioritise topic areas that are important to the trials community and public partners.

As well as an introductory module, the following topics are planned and underway.

  • Data utility
  • Governance of trials that use health systems data
  • A public facing module to introduce health systems data in trials (co-developed with our public advisory group members)
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion considerations for trials using health systems data

Future plans include:

  • Approvals and applications
  • Data processing (covering management, storage and archiving)
  • Analysis (covering code lists and working in, and setting up, secure data environments for access and analysis)

Start date

1st April 2023

End date

31st December 2028





Further information


Advert for Public Advisory Group (PAG) 24 Jan 2024

TOP-CAT SME Briefing Document Feb 2024