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Research Voices: Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust Describe Delivering The COVID-19 Recovery Trial

Research Voices: Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust Describe Delivering The COVID-19 Recovery Trial
Pictured above (L-R): Jane Hunt (Lead Research Nurse), Jen Morrison (R&D Manager), Cathy White (Research Nurse), Michal Lamparski (Pharmacist), Dr Roope Manhas (Consultant rheumatologist), Libbie Willis (Research HCA)

Research has shown that it can offer hope during even the most challenging of times. The recent results of the RECOVERY Trial generated international interest and media coverage in the COVID-19 research trial being delivered across the South West.

Behind every trial and set of published results is a team that delivers the research study for the benefit of their patients and to gain valuable insights into conditions and care. The Research Team at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is one of seven Trusts in the region and 175 across the country that pulled together to deliver the worldwide study in the hope it would demonstrate better outcomes to those suffering from COVID-19.

The low-cost steroid dexamethasone was shown to cut the risk of death by a third for COVID-19 patients on ventilators and by one fifth for those on oxygen treatment. Members of the Research Team shared their experience of delivering the trial in their own words.

‘The right thing to do’

Michal Lamparski, Respiratory Discharge Facilitation Pharmacist, describes the initial reaction to the trial:

“Participating in the RECOVERY Trial felt like the right thing to do from day one. Being able to enroll the worst-hit COVID-19 patients into the trial was often the only way to give them back some of the control over their own life, often lost at the moment of admission. On many occasions, it helped to reassure the family members, and sometimes even ourselves in our moments of doubt, that we are doing everything we possibly can to make our patients feel better. Working together across various healthcare professions towards a shared goal felt good and it gave us all a sense of belonging to a supportive community, so needed in these trying times.”

A Focus On Communication

After signing up to deliver the study the next step was to identify and recruit the first patient to participate in the trial. Dr Akudo Umeh explains this process:

“As a GP trainee currently working in Acute Medicine, I had the opportunity to recruit COVID positive patients for the RECOVERY Trial. Talking to patients about the trial and explaining what it entails to them in order to get informed consent helped me improve my communication skills which would be important to me in my career as a GP.

 “There were patients who did not have mental capacity, for whom I had to speak with their next-of-kin. It was quite challenging talking to these relatives because in addition to being stressed both mentally and emotionally due to the patients’ situation, they could not visit their ill relative due to travel and hospital-visitation restrictions, and I had to gain consent through the telephone. It was quite interesting to note that a number of patients and their relatives were happy to be involved in the trial.

“Overall, it felt great knowing that I was doing something extra for these patients, and seeing some positive results from the research project definitely gives a huge sense of fulfilment.”

Dr Fionn Bellis, ED Consultant, pictured below, used the opportunity to conduct some e-learning before getting involved in delivering the trial.

Dr Fionn Bellis, ED Consultant

“I was genuinely delighted to be involved [and] be part of such an important trial. It became possible when the inclusion criteria were changed to include clinical suspicion COVID and not having to wait for a positive swab result. It was very easy to do the on-line learning required which was self explanatory.”

Looking Ahead

Dr Roope Manhas, Consultant Rheumatologist, General Physician and Director of Research reflect on the team’s role in such a significant achievement and looks to more research successes in the future.

“We should all feel very proud to have contributed to this very important national public health research study, which is informing medical practice in this field in both the UK and worldwide. The outcome of the Dexamethasone arm is a fantastic and welcome development for both current and future patients who may be affected by this awful disease. Hopefully, we will see more positive outcomes for other treatments being trialled as part of this study very soon, thus widening treatment options whilst we await the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.”


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