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Delivering MoonShot - Pam's Story

Delivering MoonShot   Pam Story

 by Pam Devall, Research Delivery Manager, Primary Care

‘The World is moving so fast these days that the person who says “it cant be done” is usually interrupted by someone doing it’ – Elbert Hubbard.

This quote seems very fitting at the moment, with reports of Covid-19 speeding up digital transformation by more than five years, supermarkets boosting their online capacity to compete for custom and AccuRX developing video consultation capability in the space of a weekend to enable patients to access healthcare, just to name a few examples.

Many organisations are adopting new ways of working at speed and at scale. Nowhere is this more evident than in our own working environment. We are seeing fast track schemes such as ACCORD (Accelerating COVID 19 Research & Development), which are reducing the time taken to set up clinical studies from months to weeks and the rapid introduction of platform trials in which multiple treatments are evaluated at the same time.

A bit closer to home, there are excellent examples of where we are speeding things up to do our bit to ensure that the people who live in the West Midlands can benefit from taking part in studies that show which tests and treatments work best.

One such example that I would like to share with you is the exceptional efforts that were made by members of our staff and research participants in support of the Falcon-MoonShot project. MoonShot is a study designed to find a solution for COVID-19 testing in the UK by assessing the new 30-minute MoonShot devices. The study was set up and successfully delivered in the West Midlands in a remarkable 29 days, involving 37 of our staff, recruiting 153 participants across three of the Test and Trace testing centres situated in the West Midlands. So how was it done?

The timescale: The Delivery of the MoonShot study was against the clock right from the very beginning. The set up timescale was ‘as soon as possible’ and the challenge was to pull together a team of dedicated staff at each of three selected testing centres including the Coventry Ricoh Arena, Birmingham Airport and the BET365 football stadium in Stoke on Trent. The study required a team of nurses and runners at each site to recruit participants who had received a positive Covid-19 diagnosis within four days of their result.

The team: Our Workforce team was extremely efficient in identifying potential members of available staff who could be teamed up literally overnight to man the testing centres. Taking into account that all of the participants would be Covid-19 positive, the response from our team members was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic.

The Study Support team was also on the case, helping us to understand what was required, identifying and working through the challenges in order to achieve speedy set up.

As the team started to form it was crystal clear to see that the ‘can do’ attitude was going to make this huge ask possible. Once the sites were set up the team quickly organised themselves and made co-ordination of the rota a breeze, providing their availability, responding to requests and collectively contributing lots of practical advice and knowledge.

The variety of experience in the team was broad, with staff from different specialities including mental health, primary care, stroke, cancer and different functions including study support, workforce, research delivery, projects, Patient & Public Involvement and Engagement and from varied roles including administrators, nurses, research facilitators and managers.

The team was trained up to staff the testing hubs - they contacted the participants, took consent, instructed participants how to take their own samples and got the samples sent off to the labs each day. The NHS Test and Trace teams on site were really helpful and went out of their way to support our team to get the job done and ensure they had lots of hot drinks and goodies to keep them going.

I received lots of very positive feedback about our staff about their professionalism, enthusiasm, and hard working ‘can do’ attitudes.

The participants: 153 people from the West Midlands participated, despite them feeling poorly, the cold weather and having to make an additional journey out to visit a nearby testing centre to take part. Participants were amazing, they already knew that they had the virus and would not gain from the test results personally, however they worked with the team by remaining in their cars and following instructions on laminated sheets of paper, providing samples and giving their time to help develop the rapid tests for the benefit of others.

The approach: The short timescales to set up and deliver MoonShot required coordination skills of military precision. We adopted the study lead approach, which is commonly used in Primary Care and includes a robust oversight role, which acts as the single point of contact for the team and all enquiries and as the conduit for information between the lead Local Clinical Research Network (LCRN), study team and the delivery team.

The communication was planned and consistent with daily hangouts to feedback, update and share our daily experience and to help the following day run smoothly as possible for all. The daily hangouts were just 15 minutes and were a pleasure to take part in. The good will and humour was elating.

I am writing this blog to highlight the many amazing individuals working within our LCRN. Also for me personally it was a great experience to be actively involved in such an important and fast paced project. It enabled me to test the value of the Study Lead role and wrap a ‘community’ around the study, in which everyone understood their role and played their part. There honestly were a couple of times when the hair on the back of my neck stood up!

It was a remarkable collaborative effort and when the chips were down, this team rolled up their sleeves and cracked on with the job in hand without a single whinge, moan or gripe. Nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way and above and beyond to deliver MoonShot successfully. I feel very privileged to have worked with these individuals and very proud of what they achieved in such a short time. In the words of Biz Stone: ‘When you hand good people possibility they do great things.’

Professor Rick Body, Chief Investigator for the Moonshot study, said: “ As far as we are aware, no other country has developed the infrastructure or organisation that you have put in place and been part of. We are very clear, the legacy that you have left behind will be used positively in the UK to bring more COVID-19 tests to the UK.”

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.