Primary Care research during the COVID-19 pandemic in the East Midlands
COVID-19 research studies are taking place in a range of settings, including Primary Care. Lucy Sheppard, Primary Care Team Leader for the CRN East Midlands, talks to us about her role during this unique time...
“When faced with a new disease such as COVID-19, there are no existing treatments or vaccines that we can use immediately,” Lucy explains. “That makes research more important that ever, and studies taking place in Primary Care settings are an integral part of our response to the virus.”
Lucy’s role as Primary Care Team Leader sees her coordinating local research teams in each county in the East Midlands. Together, Lucy and these teams work with GP practices to deliver research studies across a wide range of diseases, conditions and mental health. Currently, research taking place in Primary Care is helping us to understand more about COVID-19 and the impact that it has on patients.
“We’ve been working on two urgent COVID-19 research studies in Primary Care,” Lucy explains. “The PRINCIPLE study is enabling us to assess whether existing drugs could be used to reduce the effects of the disease before people need to be hospitalised. We are also proud to be supporting the Oxford vaccine trial through one of our GP practices in Nottingham, which is testing whether a newly developed vaccine can protect people from the virus.”
Lucy began her career working at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, deciding to specialise in research there before joining the CRN East Midlands. “I’ve alway been driven by a desire to try and help others,” she explains, “and working in research gives me the satisfaction that comes with knowing the work that I’m involved in will help to improve health outcomes for patients.”
Last year, the Primary Care team worked with over 250 GP practices in the region to provide opportunities for patients to be part of research. In addition to supporting the establishment and delivery of research studies, Lucy also works closely with GP practices to ensure that patients are provided with information about opportunities to take part in research.
“Most people are eager to be involved in research once they hear about it, and understand how it can benefit themselves and others,” she says. “But one of our main challenges is making sure that more people are aware that they can take part in research, and provide them with the knowledge and support to take part in studies so that together we can make a difference.”
For now, supporting the delivery of vital research into COVID-19 remains Lucy’s focus. “There is a real sense of collective determination pulling both GP practices and patients together,” she says. “People are driven by a sense that research participation is a way for them to ‘do their bit, whether as a professional or participant, and I’m proud to be part of the extraordinary collective response to the pandemic.”