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246,771 people support London and South East research in 22-23

Over 245,000 people in London and the South East took part in research in 2022-2023, according to figures released by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to mark International Clinical Trials Day today.

A total of 246,771 volunteers took part in NIHR-supported health and care research across London and the South East in 2022-2023.

A Lambeth mum whose long COVID meant she couldn't return to work for six months due to extreme tiredness has thanked the south London treatment trial team at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust that got her back on her feet.

Mercy Njoku, 55, took part in the HEAL-COVID trial from February 2022 until February 2023, which aims to identify treatments that may benefit people hospitalised with COVID-19 and later discharged with their recovery. She signed up for the trial while in hospital. The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) South London is supporting the HEAL-COVID trial. Mercy said:

"Research gives us hope. I had regular monthly calls from the HEAL-COVID research team, where they checked in about my recovery. The research nurse, Sara, encouraged me and pushed me to keep going. Her support meant a lot to me, and she celebrated every small milestone and success.

"The HEAL-COVID trial was the first time I took part in research directly, and I would do the same again in the future to help others. My message to other people with long COVID is: there is hope. You can recover, stay positive and take things one step at a time! I'm feeling great and proud that I can do normal things like going out to the shops again."

Mercy took atorvastatin, a blood-thinning drug, daily and had monthly follow-up phone calls with a nurse where she answered a series of questions about her COVID-19 recovery as part of her involvement in the trial.

Antoinette Martin’s son Raffy, 11 months, took part in the HARMONIE study into Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the biggest cause of hospitalisation of very young children in the world - it affects 90% of children before the age of two. Raffy took part in the study at Barts Health NHS Trust.

Antoinette, a trainee GP who lives in Mile End, east London, wanted to protect Raffy after her daughter Eden was hospitalised by RSV last year.

She explained: “In the winter of 2021, Eden developed a cough. By the fifth day of having the cough, she was getting worse, really trying hard to breathe and going blue. We drove her to the Royal London Hospital, and the team put her on oxygen straightaway. She was unwell for another five days before she came home.

“The team looking after her at the Royal London Hospital was fantastic. They really took the best care of her.”

Of the trial, which was supported by NIHR Clinical Research Network North Thames, Antoinette said: “I heard about it from a group of doctor friends. It was really easy to take part. I filled in an online form, and within a day or so, the study team had already contacted me.

“We arranged a study visit, and this took place a couple of weeks ago. Raffy received the vaccine, which is great. He was monitored for 30 minutes afterwards, and then we could go home. The study team was really friendly.”

Research helps the NHS and others develop better treatments and improve medical diagnosis, prevention, care and quality of life for everyone. In the 75th year of the NHS, the NIHR is highlighting how research can and does shape the future of healthcare.

Professor Andrew Shennan OBE, a Co-Clinical Director of the NIHR CRN South London and Consultant Obstetrician at Guy's and St Thomas', has urged more Londoners to play their part in helping to shape healthcare for future generations. He said:

"Research only makes discoveries that improve and save lives because of the thousands of people who take part each year. I call on even more Londoners to volunteer to shape the future of healthcare for the next 75 years and beyond!"

You can find out about the latest health and care research taking place across the capital on the Be Part of Research website.