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Adapting for the future: restarting research in Nottingham

Adapting for the future: restarting research in Nottingham

Professor Steve Ryder, Clinical Director of Research and Innovation at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, explains how innovating and prioritising patient safety has enabled research to be restarted locally…

“We began by setting up a Restart Group with a remit to explore which studies it was possible to reopen,” Steve explains. This featured a quick review against local criteria, including whether the clinical service linked to the study was up and running, if participants could take part safely, and if the clinical team and sponsor were happy for the study to resume. 

At the same time, a capacity assessment was carried out to understand more about some of the key blockages to the resumption of research, including to identify areas where staff had been reallocated elsewhere to deal with the pandemic. Together, this helped to develop a picture of which studies could realistically be resumed.

Steve says that involving patients and participants in the process was an essential step to building confidence. “We knew that some people were still anxious about returning to a hospital,” he says, “so we created a survey to find out more about people’s attitudes, and approaches that we could take to reassure them.”

Part of the response to the findings has included reducing contact within hospital settings where possible, and delivering research where patients are able to participate at sites and buildings that feel less like a traditional hospital.

“We’ve been keen to develop and implement innovative ways of working,” Steve explains. “For example, some commercial studies have managed to visit patients at home, and we’re also looking at how we can use the power of technology to digitalise research where possible.” Whilst this type of approach is not appropriate for every study, there is a desire to reduce face-to-face contact where possible.

Where research is continuing within hospitals, adhering to Trust guidance around safety measures is key. “We are actively promoting key messages around mask wearing and actions that we are taking to reduce the risk of infection,” Steve says. This consistent approach has given participants the confidence that safety is at the very top of the agenda for hospitals.

Steve adds that it has also been important to listen to staff and get their insight into where and when research should be resumed. “We gave colleagues a chance to tell us where they felt there was capacity to resume studies,” he says, “and found that, where possible, there is a strong desire to allow people to resume their participation in research.”

Steve believes that the experience over recent months means that the Trust will be better prepared in the future, should any similar event occur. “The changes that we’ve made to research and our commitment to embracing new ways of working mean that we wouldn’t have to pause studies in the same way,” he says. 

“I’m proud of the way that everyone has adapted to a uniquely challenging situation, and that by working together we are now able to welcome participants back to be part of research that is safe and secure.”