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'Our absolute priority' - delivering COVID-19 research in the East Midlands

'Our absolute priority' - delivering COVID-19 research in the East Midlands

Research is a key part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Karen Pearson, Research Delivery Manager for CRN East Midlands, explains her role in establishing these studies in our region...

“COVID-19 research is our absolute priority,” Karen explains. “We are working to quickly and efficiently set up studies which have been classified as Urgent Public Health studies.” These studies are being prioritised by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in order to obtain evidence that will help to develop new tests, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.

At present, there are 12 such studies that are currently operating or being set up in the East Midlands, with more on the horizon. Teams leading COVID-19 studies across the country need them to be delivered in different locations, and one element of Karen’s role is to provide research partners and sites in the East Midlands with information and support so that they can be part of the research response.

“As soon as we receive notification that one of these urgent studies is looking for sites to take part, our Study Support Team contacts our partners to see whether they want to participate,” Karen explains. “Different studies are looking for different sites, such as hospitals or GP practices, and we contact the relevant sites to inform them what the study is and what their involvement would entail.”

Sites who would like to take part are asked to express their interest using a digital process, which includes nominating a Principal Investigator (PI) to act as the local lead for the study. “If sites cannot take part because of issues around a lack of capacity, we explore whether we can help out with our Research Support Team, or by identifying staff from other partner organisations who might be able to step in,” she adds. This collaboration is key to enabling the rapid establishment and delivery of COVID-19 research.

Study teams are then notified about research sites that are able to deliver the research. “Part of our role at that point  is to act as a link between study teams and our partners,” Karen says. “That includes sharing guidance, providing information and updates, and asking questions.” By serving as a main point of contact in the region, Karen is able to increase efficiency for study teams and ensure that information flows quickly to partners.

The urgency of COVID-19 research needs rapid action and people to work effectively together. Karen says that she has been delighted by the response of the research community in the East Midlands. “Everyone wants to help out; they understand how important research is at this time, and people are going out of their way to ask how they can support the delivery of these vital research studies. That commitment is one of the reasons why the East Midlands is making such a big contribution to COVID-19 research.”

Underpinning that, Karen adds, is the flexibility of the CRN workforce. “I am working with colleagues with expertise in research in hospitals, Primary Care and community settings,” she says. “Pooling our skills and expertise means that we can provide our partners with everything they need to get these studies up and running so that we can play our part in tackling COVID-19.”