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North East and North Cumbria Impact Report 2020/2021


View the PDF version of the 2020-21 Impact Report (please note this is not an accessible PDF, but the content on this page is the accessible version).


2020/21 was a year like no other. A year in which research impacted each and every one of our lives. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who have been involved in research in any way, from raising public awareness, to participating or being part of the research community. You have made such a critical and tangible difference to the greatest health emergency of our lifetime. As you will see in this report, throughout the pandemic the North East and North Cumbria research community has contributed vital evidence which has led to millions of lives being saved across the world.

I am proud and grateful for the work of our core team, Specialty Leads, Chief and Principal Investigators and research, development and innovation staff in our partner organisations who have worked ceaselessly to offer research opportunities across the whole spectrum of health and care in the region. Of the 1,416 people who completed the Participant in Research Experience Survey, 76% chose to leave a positive free text comment that highlighted just how much people appreciate being able to take part in research and how highly they value the research staff they met during their experience. Participants felt safe, valued and cared for, they found the staff warm and friendly, and they participated because they wanted to help others.

It’s an exciting time to be leading the Network, as we look to build upon our response to the pandemic and increase the opportunities for participants to get involved in health and social research for the common good.

Professor Caroline Wroe, Clinical Director

People and Communities

Our vision is to improve health and care outcomes for the people of the North East and North Cumbria through research. In 2020/21, the region recruited 66,078 participants to 520 studies.

Our Strategic Themes

Delivery Excellence in operational performance and delivery across organisational boundaries.

Partnerships The partner of choice for the life sciences industry to deliver more together.

Embedding Research Embedding and enabling research - attracting, training and supporting all staff.

Targeting Health Needs Research partnerships driven by the health and care needs of our local population.

Our strategy was launched at our first virtual event on Wednesday 25 November 2020.

Working with 14 Research Champions across the Region 

A Research Champion is a volunteer who promotes research to patients, members of the public, carers and healthcare professionals.

Research Champions gave 195 hours of their time to support us. 

“Since becoming a Research Champion I have widened my knowledge of research. The Zoom meetings mean I get to hear what the other champions have been involved in and how they promote research. I enjoy listening to the speakers and I have learned so much.” Pamela Harris, Research Champion 

Gathering feedback through the Participant in Research Experience Survey (PRES)

97% would consider taking part in research again

Our region collected 1,416 PRES responses across 15 partner organisations and achieved responses in all age categories. We implemented PRES for all COVID-19 vaccine studies and used the ‘OK to say no’ survey to understand barriers to participating in the BASIL C-19 study.

Engaging with under-served communities for COVID-19 vaccine uptake 

We identified a need for resources that clearly explained the importance of COVID-19 vaccine research for local communities. We worked with colleagues from NIHR CRN Yorkshire and Humber to produce a video animation in Hindi and Sylheti to encourage people to sign up to the COVID-19 vaccine research registry. The videos were widely shared and were watched 246 and 201 times respectively.

Following this success, we produced a series of ‘talking heads’ videos in multiple languages including Bengali, Polish, Romanian and Punjabi featuring staff working in health and social care. These videos explain the importance of taking part in research and having a COVID-19 vaccine when offered. We worked with local authorities to promote these on the website, which is the flagship COVID-19 information site for seven local authorities in the North East.

Enabling research in care homes

ENRICH brings together care home staff, residents and their families with researchers. In our region we recruited 178 participants to two studies (VIVALDI AND SafeST), making us the top region for ENRICH recruitment.

Our COVID-19 response

During the pandemic our focus turned to supporting and delivering Urgent Public Health (UPH) research. This section highlights some of the significant contributions of our region in the fight against COVID-19.

41,172 participants recruited to 41 UPH studies. 

18,996 people signed up to Newcastle Hospitals' Research Plus Me registry.

28,785 sign ups to the national COVID-19 vaccine research registry.

COVID-19 vaccine research

In 2020/21, we recruited 1,998 participants to 5 vaccines studies across 3 brand new, purpose-built sites in the North East and North Cumbria, achieving 100% recruitment to time and target. 

Outstanding recruitment to the Falcon MoonShot study

North East staff were praised for recruiting a remarkable number of participants to the Falcon MoonShot study evaluating lateral flow test devices. The Newcastle-based team included staff and volunteers from NIHR CRN North East and North Cumbria, St John Ambulance, Newcastle University, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. 

RECOVERY - Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy

Our region achieved the highest overall recruitment rate of COVID-19 hospital admissions to the RECOVERY study at 15.1% (national average: 9.3%).


South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recruited 114 participants to the REMAP-CAP study, which looks at treatments for people with community acquired pneumonia or COVID-19. James Cook University Hospital was among the top 5 recruiting sites nationally.

Research GP supports high recruitment to the PRINCIPLE study

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust’s dedicated research GP, Dr Stacey Fisher, contributed to recruitment to the PRINCIPLE study, which investigates COVID-19 treatments for recovery at home. 77 participants were recruited across 23 practices in the North Cumbria CCG area. Dr Fisher also featured as a panel member for a study webinar to share best practice nationally. 

Restarting non-COVID research

90% of studies were no longer paused at 31 March 2021 (of 137 studies paused at 21 May 2020)

59% of unpaused studies recruited after 1 June 2020

Our first regional study to receive Urgent Public Health badging

The BASIL study evaluates a psychological support package to mitigate depression and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic for older people with long-term health conditions. This is the first and only study that was led from the region that received Urgent Public Health badging. The BASIL-C19 study recruited 96 participants in five months.


We work with partners to ensure research occupies the place it deserves in the day-to-day work of the NHS, social care and community settings. Here are just some examples of what we achieved together in a challenging year.

Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria and MedConnect North

Partnered with AHSN on the MedConnect North initative, offering support to companies to form partnerships with academia and the NHS in the region. MedConnect North also supports NHS staff to encourage, drive and develop innovation within their organisation. MedConnect North was approached by 36 companies in 2020/21.

Collaborating across NIHR

Worked with the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Behavioural Science to deliver a vaccine hesitancy survey. Co-funded an ‘embedded researcher’ role with NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria to support the development of research culture surrounding social care within Gateshead Council.

Cross regional working

Staff from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust supported York Teaching Hospitals to deliver the Medicago vaccine study.

Collaborated with health and social care professionals across organisational and sectoral boundaries through C-WorKS (COVID Consequences - Want it or Know it, Share it) to share knowledge and resources about the wider consequences of COVID-19. 

Local Authorities

Created four new roles based in local authorities to further support research opportunities in public health and social care.

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners

Our Clinical Director Professor Caroline Wroe joined the Newcastle Health Innovation Partners’ Strategy Board. NHIP brings the region’s research, NHS and city partners together to discover, develop and deliver research to improve the health and economic prosperity of the region. 

NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups

Supported 199 local GP practices to recruit 3,601 participants to studies, including BASIL C-19 and PRINCIPLE.

NHS Trusts

Delivered 497 studies that recruited 43,340 participants

Recruited 3,393 participants to the Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) study. Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust took part in a pilot to assess the impact of weekend working on recruitment to RECOVERY. 

North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust recruited the highest proportion of staff to the #OPTIONS study, which explores the understanding and attitudes of healthcare workers to the organ donation law changes introduced in spring 2020.

Worked with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust on PAX-BD, a major study looking at treatment for depression for people with bipolar disorder.

Social Care

Delivered the PRINCIPLE study to participants in care homes. Enhanced existing infrastructure to deliver research in care homes through a dedicated senior research nurse. 

Working with Patients and the Public

Set up the Learning Disability Research Support Group in partnership with the Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company. The group gives researchers the opportunity to discuss their research ideas and plans with a group of people with learning disabilities.

Supporting your research

We offer a wide range of services to facilitate the delivery of high-quality research across the region. We have a dedicated team in place with expertise in Chief Investigator support, study set up, commercial studies, and primary care to support you and your research.

Working across organisations: Durham Tees Valley Research Alliance (DTVRA)

DTVRA includes South Tees, North Tees and Hartlepool, and County Durham and Darlington trusts. The benefits of DTVRA shone through, with the Hartlepool COVID-19 vaccine hub being successfully run by staff from all three organisations.

The NOVAVAX vaccine study was also a great success for our region. 532 participants were recruited through a workforce comprising medical, nursing, technical, pharmacy, lab and administrative staff from all three DTVRA trusts.

The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust recruited over 1,800 patients into the Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium (CCP ISARIC), with one third of the region’s recruitment coming from the alliance.

Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) sessions for mothers and babies funded by NIHR CRN PPIE Small Grant Scheme

“It is difficult to branch out into new mother and baby communities during the pandemic when you can’t go out and meet people, but we managed to engage with mums from the South Asian community and spread our reach into underserved populations. We also engaged with women who experienced pregnancy loss, which is a particularly sensitive area. Despite all the challenges this year, we continued with our work and learned new ways of working which we will build upon in the future.” Allison Farnworth, Senior Research Methodologist and PPIE advisor at NIHR Research Design Service North East and North Cumbria

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

"The pandemic increased research awareness within the trust. Our organisation’s active role in the forefront of urgent public research would not have been possible without the infrastructure, support and funding provided by the CRN.” Peta Heslop, Head of Research and Development

North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

"Thanks to additional funding from the CRN we could continue study delivery over weekends. This meant we could provide cover every day without pausing a single study. Without this support, we would have missed eligible patients and found ourselves stretched as a department.” Michelle Jackson, Research and Development Manager

Chief Investigator led studies in the region

The NIHR-supported SENIOR-RITA study aims to find the best treatment for over-75s with minor heart attacks. SENIOR-RITA, which is funded by the British Heart Foundation and sponsored by The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is looking to recruit around 1,600 participants across 45 NHS sites. By the end of 2020/21, the North East and North Cumbria recruited 502 patients across 11 sites. The Chief Investigator is Dr Vijay Kunadian.

COLO-COHORT is a colorectal cancer study that aims to develop a ‘risk stratification’ tool to help identify which patients are at highest risk of having adenomas or bowel cancer. The study is funded by the Guts UK charity and sponsored by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. Our region recruited 383 participants across 4 sites by the end of 2020/21. The Chief Investigator for COLO-COHORT is Professor Colin Rees. 

Region showcases unrivalled research route for trainee medics

An award-winning campaign to attract more doctors and dentists to train in the North East and North Cumbria has launched a new interactive ‘roadmap’ to promote careers in research. The ‘roadmap’ guides trainees through what’s on offer, whether they’re at the start of their career as a medical student or further along as a specialty doctor or consultant. Leading the project is trauma and orthopaedic specialty trainee and research fellow, Helen Ingoe.

Developing the workforce

We contributed to the employment of 914 staff, including medical staff, nurses, midwives, allied health professionals and research delivery staff in partner organisations and our core team. We also funded 31 staff as part of the vaccine pump prime workforce.

190 Chief Investigator led studies

798 Principal Investigator led studies

Support from our core team

One of our key priorities was to increase the region’s capacity and capability to deliver Urgent Public Health studies. We made funding available to assist with gaps in staffing and to invest in IT infrastructure for remote working. We also redeployed over 15% of our core team to support the region’s response to the pandemic. Our staff reported increased confidence in workbased knowledge and pride in the contribution they made.

Pioneering virtual trial design leads to faster recruitment

A collaboration between NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre: Newcastle, hosted by The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and sponsor company, Enteromed, led to rapid recruitment to RELIEVE-IBSD, one of the first fully virtual interventional clinical trials in England. The trial was nationally recognised as a major step forward in developing the UK’s capacity to conduct virtual clinical research in the context of the pandemic.

67% faster recruitment

Learning and Development

Our Learning and Development team adapted national and regional training programmes to be delivered virtually. Topics included Principal Investigator essentials and good clinical practice from a national perspective. The team also created a bitesize e-learning module about the informed consent process within Urgent Public Health studies, exploring additional environmental and communication barriers that can be introduced between clinician and participant. The course was viewed 2,255 times.

150 hours of training delivered to over 430 attendees.

Associate Principal Investigator Scheme

The Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme aims to develop junior doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to become the PIs of the future. The scheme also provides formal recognition of a trainee’s engagement in NIHR Portfolio research studies through the conferment of Associate PI status. In our region, we had PI applications from a range of studies, including from the cancer and surgical specialties.

37 Associate PI applications covering 22 studies.

Looking to the future - the Direct Delivery Team

With an increasing need to deliver research in innovative ways, we’re leading a new initiative to set up a team that can operate flexibly across various sectors and organisations. Supported by national funding, we’re developing a workforce called the Direct Delivery Team. The team will facilitate the delivery of research across a broad range of settings, particularly outside of hospitals, by widening access to research. It will provide expertise, work with new partners and build an innovative, flexible research infrastructure. 

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