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Case study: Finding treatments for COVID-19 in the community

We speak to Dr Phillip Jacobs and Laura Thomas from the Stokewood Surgery in Fair Oak, Hampshire.

An interview with:

  • Dr Phillip Jacobs – Research Lead at Stokewood Surgery.
  • Laura Thomas - Admin Manager at Stokewood Surgery.

About the PRINCIPLE trial: PRINCIPLE (Platform Randomised Trial of Treatments in the Community for Epidemic and Pandemic Illnesses) is a UK-wide study led by the University of Oxford and funded by UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Health and Social Care through the NIHR. 

Its aim is to find effective treatments for COVID-19 that could prevent patients from needing hospital treatment and aid their recovery at home. 

Patients can refer themselves to the study via the website or they can be recruited by their GP surgery. The study is open to anyone aged 18 or over who has had a positive test for COVID-19 and is unwell with COVID-19 symptoms which have started in the last 14 days. Find out more:

Stokewood Surgery has been involved with research for around six years now and I’ve been the research lead for most of that time, being involved in various studies. 

The PRINCIPLE study emerged in the summer of 2020 and we felt that it would be a good fit for a primary care provider like us, so we were keen to get involved. 

The study was up and running quite quickly and it’s incredibly user-friendly which made it a good fit alongside our day-to-day work. Patients can either refer themselves directly via the website or we can do it on their behalf. 

We've been really proactive at recruiting, with more than 30 of our patients joining the study so far. Once a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed at the surgery, then Laura gets in touch with the patient to see if they are interested in getting involved. 

Once they apply, I check their suitability and if they’re accepted I then randomise them into an arm of the trial and let them know which treatment they will be receiving. This is all fed into the national system and their treatment prescriptions are dispatched centrally by the University of Oxford team. 

Patients keep a symptom diary online, via the website, and we report back to the study organisers if any of the patients need additional treatment or use additional services like out of hours doctors or A&E. 

As the trial is exploring the use of medicines that already exist for the treatment of COVID-19, it takes away some of the anxiety for people. There are fewer unknowns with drugs that have been tried and tested for years to treat other illnesses. 

A key part of our success with the PRINCIPLE trial has been that everyone in the surgery is aware of the study and helping to either recruit patients or manage the data-input. DR PHILLIP JACOBS, Research Lead LAURA THOMAS, Admin Manager, Stokewood Surgery That team effort has been really important to get the right approach and to make sure we could manage the study alongside our already busy workload. 

The central study team at Oxford have been fantastic at keeping us up-to-date with study findings and any changes we need to make to our enrolment or data collection processes. It has felt like a collaborative effort across the surgery and with the central team. 

Both Laura and I feel really proud to be involved in the study and it feels like we are making a difference. We intend to continue with PRINCIPLE at Stokewood Surgery for as long as it’s needed – we have a large patient population so we are able to contribute good numbers to the study and thanks to its suitability for primary care, it has been a great fit for us.