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Shifa Surgery, Blackburn: How a research lead community responded to the pandemic


In October 2020, the Lancashire town of Blackburn recorded one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in England. The town was labelled a ‘COVID hot spot’ and has been left devastated by the pandemic with many lives lost, businesses ruined and normal ways of life disrupted in ways no-one could ever have thought possible.

The town is well known for it’s strong community spirit and local people have responded to this crisis in many remarkable ways. Shifa Surgery on Bangor Street epitomises this community spirit with the team taking a key role in researching ways that COVID-19 can be managed in primary care to prevent hospital admissions.

When you walk into the Health Centre the first thing that strikes you is the empty waiting room, as the town is in strict lockdown conditions. The waiting room was once a very busy focal point for the community. The empty feeling is soon replaced by a very warm greeting from the reception staff and a lasting impression of teamwork and endeavour to find much needed solutions to fight this terrible disease.  

The team at Shifa Surgery are closely engaged with their local community and this is making a significant and positive difference in the search for research led answers.

In partnership with the North West Coast, Clinical Research Network and the University of Oxford, the team at Shifa Surgery have been taking part in the PRINCIPLE trial.

The PRINCIPLE trial acronym stands for Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against COVID-19 in older peoPLE and is helping to find treatments for COVID-19. Specifically it is looking for treatment options for the over 50s that can be taken at home.

This short film introduces the research team at Shifa and provides some insight as to why they are so successful with the research they embark upon. The team recruited their first volunteer on the 16th of May and have now recruited more volunteers that any other GP practice across the country. When the PRINCIPLE trial does deliver answers, the team at Shifa will have played a hugely significant role. Being a modest team, they will be the first to point out it has been down to the Bangor Street community, their spirit and willingness to help.

You can view the film below:


However we do still need more GP practices like Shifa Surgery to join the PRINCIPLE trial. Julie Mugarza who leads the Primary Care Team at the North West Coast, Clinical Research Network commented:

“We have been hugely inspired by the research team at Shifa Surgery, they have shown us how important a community led approach to research is and now we are looking to engage with other practices who can replicate this approach across our region. This study is pivotal in helping us find treatment options at an early stage to manage COVID-19 in the community.”

If you are a surgery interested in taking part in the PRINCIPLE trial please email the Primary Care Team at the Clinical Research Network: North West Coast on

If you are over 50 and have COVID-19 symptoms you can also join the PRINCIPLE trial from the comfort of your own home by clicking on this link: