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Guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on research funded or supported by NIHR

Guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on research funded or supported by NIHR


CRN Wessex support during COVID-19 period 

If you wish to contact CRN Wessex with any queries, please do so via which is being monitored as usual. Local media enquiries should be directed to Please visit the NIHR's homepage for further updates. 

Statement - 26 March 2020

Working with partners across the health and care system, NIHR is leading, enabling and delivering world-class COVID-19 research, a key element of the Government’s overall response to the pandemic. Given the extraordinary pressures currently being faced by the health and care system, we must also ensure that we are making best use of the limited resources and capacity available to support research.
We will do this by establishing and implementing a single, national process that will allow the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) / Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) for England to draw on expert advice to prioritise the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the challenges we face.
This process will cover funded studies, irrespective of whether they are funded by the public sector, industry or charities and also, in partnership with UKRI, studies that require funding. It aims to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the capacity of the health and care system to support research is not exceeded.
Details of the process and the new single point of entry for prioritising COVID-19 studies are now published.
With regard to HRA approvals, researchers should make an application through the national prioritisation process first and will be signposted for expedited regulatory approvals so that approval review can progress in parallel to the system of assessment leading to a view from CMO/DCMO on prioritisation.
All NHS Trusts, health and care providers and universities will need to prioritise support for studies which have been nationally prioritised. A live list of these studies is being collated.
Organisations may support COVID-19 research activity only when this does not impact on the system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support nationally prioritised research. Organisations will be expected to pause any local studies that impede their ability to contribute to national research efforts.

Statement - 19 March 2020

Until further notice, the NIHR Clinical Research Network is pausing the site set up of any new or ongoing studies at NHS and social care sites that are not nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies.

This will enable our research workforce to focus on delivering the nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies or enabling redeployment to frontline care where necessary.

These studies are enabling the clinical and epidemiological evidence to be gathered to inform national policy and will enable new treatments, diagnostics and vaccines to be developed and tested. The complete focus of the NIHR Clinical Research Network will be on delivering these highest priority COVID-19 studies.

During this time, the MHRA and HRA will continue to provide an approvals service for all studies, prioritised in accordance with the national situation, ensuring site set-up can restart promptly in due course.

Statement - 16 March 2020

In response to COVID-19, Dr Louise Wood CBE, has issued the following statement. Dr Wood is Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care and co-lead for NIHR.

Working with partners across the health and care system, NIHR enables and delivers world-class research that transforms people's lives, promotes economic growth and advances science. This is why the NIHR community must prioritise nationally-sponsored COVID-19 research activity, a key element of the Government’s overall response. We urge all parts of the research system to help progress these studies at pace.

Many of our community who drive or deliver NIHR research also provide direct care to patients and the public. Given the scale of the national and global challenge of COVID-19, clinical and academic health & care professionals currently funded by NIHR who are working on topics other than COVID-19 should prioritise frontline care, where requested to do so by their employing organisations. Similarly, research staff with other relevant skills, such as pharmacists and laboratory technicians, should also prioritise support to frontline care. In addition, researchers should consult with their employers to make facilities which currently support research studies available for frontline care.

This will mean that many research studies funded by NIHR, or supported by NIHR (via the Clinical Research Network and other NIHR infrastructure) may need to be paused, to free up NIHR-funded staff to help bolster the frontline response to COVID-19. In addition, we recognise that NIHR award-holding organisations may need to pause research studies for locally determined public health reasons.

However, clinical trials or other research studies which are funded or supported by NIHR should continue if discontinuing them will have significant detrimental effects on the ongoing care of individual participants involved in those studies. These are clinical decisions which will need to be made on a case-by-case basis by local decision makers on the basis of local risk and capacity assessments.

All organisations holding NIHR awards that are paused will, in the short term, continue to receive payments from DHSC in line with existing NIHR contractual payment schedules. This will be reviewed and if necessary, payment schedules will be updated as usual following the annual statement of expenditure. Where necessary, contract deliverables will be rescheduled allowing staff to concentrate on frontline care and COVID-19 research.

Any individuals or organisations funded by and/or supported by a particular NIHR funding stream who have further questions should contact their relevant NIHR Coordinating Centre in the first instance. Your usual contacts will apply but, if in any doubt, please get in touch via the contact points outlined below.

Q&A on this topic can be found here. We will update this advice periodically in response to future developments.

Finally, may I thank you for the efforts you are already making to support COVID-19 research and your response to the needs of the health and care system during these extraordinary times.

Dr Louise Wood CBE

Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care and co-lead for NIHR.

Contact points for further information:

If you are in receipt of career development award funding including fellowships:

If you are in receipt of programme funding: either (i4i, PRP, PGfAR, PDG, RfPB and RIGHT) or (EME, HS&DR, HTA, PHR, ESP, CTU support funding, HSPR and global health units and groups)

If you have questions about the delivery of a clinical study:

If you are part of NIHR's broader research infrastructure or a school or unit:

If you are a patient or member of the public and have been recruited into a research study, please direct any questions to your study team.