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Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust Task Force for COVID-19 research

Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust Task Force for COVID-19 research

Research staff from across Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust have come together to form a COVID-19 Task Force to deliver the NIHR urgent public health research studies. The team is delivering RECOVERY, REMAP-CAP, CCP-UK and GenOMICCS.

CRN Kent, Surrey, Sussex spoke to: Team Leader Helen Blackman, Research Nurses Sinead Donlon and Suzanne Tluk; Research Coordinator Sarah Stone; Eleanor Smith, Research Practitioner; Research Nuclear Medicine Technologist Edith Gallagher and Kate Penhaligon, Head of Research Development & Innovations.


How was the Task Force created?

Our Task Force was formed from people from all the different research teams within the hospital. Everyone was keen to be involved and volunteered to be part of the COVID-19 research team.

The team includes research practitioners, research nurses, study coordinators, research assistants, and data managers. Although we all work in research we have not all worked together before. We have also pulled together a large admin team who are supporting us with data entry and study set-up.

We have maintained our own job roles but some people have had to step outside of their comfort zones to go into a role they have not done before, for example going from a clinical role to managing an admin team. The team has mixed skills and we can work to our strengths.

We are all enjoying being a part of this new team and being part of something meaningful.


What is a typical day for the team?

We huddle in the morning, get ward lists to identify where potential patients are and work with clinicians to identify patients appropriate for the drug studies. Then we are out recruiting patients. We then re-group at the end of the day to check in on everyone. Some members of the team are coming into contact with critically ill patients who are potentially dying. Many of our team haven't experienced this before.

We are currently working on the wards, on the RECOVERY trial. A couple of the wards have been re-designated as areas where we could use Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. We will be starting work in ITU soon for the REMAP-CAP and GenOMICC studies.

For those of us working on the wards it has been a very enjoyable experience being back in that setting. A couple of us have previously worked on the wards as research nurses. But it has been hard in another way as contact with patients has to be kept to a minimum. It is different to a normal ward environment at the moment.


Is there more awareness of research at the trust?

The research teams are normally behind the scenes. All of a sudden we are at the forefront of work within the hospital. We are more visible and colleagues are asking us about the research taking place.

The awareness of research amongst our leaders has increased which feeds into the national priority of ensuring that research is integral to clinical care. This is also part of the CQC’s inspection well-led framework. So for a Trust like us, as we are not a university or a biomedical research centre, we have taken quite a lot of positives from that.

In the future engaging colleagues about research will become easier. We are meeting many clinicians and consultants within different specialties who we would not have had contact with before.


How is delivering COVID-19 related studies different?

The main challenge has been with setting up the studies. Because they are emergency and critical care studies they have not necessarily been set up in the way we are used to. Normally we would have more time to set up a study but we are needing to set up COVID-19 studies quickly.

All the studies have been interesting to work on. We've not seen the like of this pandemic before and hope not to again.


What has the response been of patients approached to take part in COVID-19 research?

We have had mixed responses from patients. We thought initially that everyone would want to be involved. Some patients have been really positive and wanted to take part, others have not been as enthusiastic as we thought they would be. Our patients are very ill, frightened, and want to be left alone. Patients may not have a chance to discuss it with family members first as they are on their own in the hospital.


What have you learnt from working on COVID-19 studies?

During the pandemic we have had to review all of our processes. We have taken more of a pragmatic approach to setting up research to be more control-command. This is not something we are used to doing. We have had to adapt but it has shown us that as a trust we can respond quite well. We are looking at lessons learnt so far and we will look at how to develop our way of working in the future.

We are also learning from other trusts in the region. We were looking to set up an observational study that a couple of other sites have already done. After speaking to colleagues we’ve been able to set it up quite quickly. We have also shared our experience of setting up REMAP-CAP with Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust. It just goes to show that as a region we are able to set up studies quicker if we share information and keep a constant open communication channel.