Clinical trials provide a healthy living for Swansea taxi driver

A Swansea cabbie’s livelihood is certainly in good health thanks to clinical trials taking place in the city.

ABMU Health Board Media Release

Self-employed Dave Thompson is kept so busy ferrying patients around he doesn’t just making a living out of it – he gives other drivers a helping hand by putting work their way too.

Clinical trials, or research studies, are carried out in a partnership between ABMU Health Board and Swansea University Medical School. They involve new medicines or devices that are being licensed and are trialled on patients, who have agreed to take part, to determine whether they are safe and more effective than current treatments.

Pharmaceutical companies pay for these trials as well as associated costs, such as transport for patients.

When Dave first got involved eight years ago, it was worth a few hundred pounds a month to him. Now it generates ten times that. He said: “It started when the driver they were using was ill this particular day and I got the call asking if I would like to do a job. I said yes – it was certainly better than having to work nights with all the drunks around – and that was the start of it. I haven’t looked back. I take people for clinical research in Singleton or Morriston, picking them up from home and taking them back again afterwards. We have around 25 patients a week. It’s so busy I’ve had to take some other drivers on. They’re self-employed and do the work for me. They’re landed because it means work for them. My son is a self-employed driver and he helps me occasionally too. Business is really thriving. I work hard and I have overheads to pay but I’m far better off than I would be working for another company.”

Most of the work is in the southwest Wales region, but Dave has had to make occasional trips to England, including Gloucester and Darlington. Clinical trials take place simultaneously in UK and overseas centres. As they involve regular meetings between the lead investigating officers from each centre, Dave often makes airport journeys too.

Professor Steve Bain, ABMU’s Assistant Medical Director for Research and Development, said the trials involved a significant financial commitment on the part of pharmaceutical companies. Professor Bain said: “They don’t want people dropping out of these trials because they have difficulty getting to the hospital or have problems parking. So taxi companies are paid by the companies to be there on time. Patients are brought in, see the clinical staff, and are taken home again. It’s to make life as simple as possible for them.”

Clinical trials are not only income-generating for the health board and the medical school they actually save the NHS money.

Professor Bain said: “There are cost-saving elements for the NHS during these trials because the medicines are all given by the companies that are trying to license them. With diabetic patients, for example, they don’t need to go to the diabetes centres while they are in the trial, which then opens up space for other people.”

ABMU, Swansea University and Hywel Dda have embarked on the Arch (A Regional Collaboration for Health) project to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of the people of South West Wales.

As research and development is an important part of this, it creates the potential for a significant increase in clinical trials in the ABMU and Hywel Dda areas – with all the health and economic benefits that would bring.

Professor Bain said: “Instead of a trial taking place in perhaps six centres around the UK, Arch gives the opportunity to have them all in South West Wales. All these trials are closely monitored and we have people visiting on a weekly basis to keep tabs on them. If it can be done in one area it will save time and money, and boost the whole economy.”

Meanwhile, Dave is in absolutely no doubt about the benefits of clinical trials and not just in terms of his own business.

He said: “I talk to the patients and they think these research projects are wonderful. They feel like they are coming into a private hospital. Everybody will benefit if there is more research. It’s great for patients and it creates work for people like me. Everyone wins.”

Further information about Arch is available at


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