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Stroke study re-opens in Berkshire hospital

A stroke trial is among studies to have re-opened at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital after being paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study was paused in March to enable researchers to focus on studies into better diagnosing and treating COVID-19.

Now, as COVID-19 cases reduce, studies that were paused are restarting.

These include the OPTIMAS trial into when to give stroke patients anticoagulant medications to reduce blood clots and prevent further strokes. Two have recruited since it re-opened in July.

Anticoagulants are usually prescribed seven to 14 days following a stroke, however researchers want to find out if they are more effective if taken earlier. Participants are randomly assigned to receive their medications within four days or after seven days, to compare the two.

At Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, 70% (81) of studies supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) are now open to recruitment.

A further 4% (five) are still paused due to the pandemic, 3% (three) have closed to recruitment and 23% (27) are in setup.

Neelima Mannava, a stroke research practitioner at the hospital, said: “It feels great to be running this trial again because patients lost the opportunity to take part during the lockdown. We are pleased that we were able to recruit two patients a week after restarting.

“The way we recruit patients has changed as we have to wear a facemask and gloves when we approach them. We are also having follow-up appointments over the phone instead of asking the patients to come back into hospital.

“We hope that many patients will now be able to benefit from this important stroke research.”

The other NHS trusts supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands have also resumed recruitment for non-COVID studies.

  • Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: 56% (28) of studies are now open to recruitment, with 14% (seven) paused and 30% (15) closed to recruitment.
  • Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust: 37% (56) of studies open to recruitment, with 36% (55) paused and 27% (42) closed to recruitment.
  • Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: 47% (44) of studies open to recruitment, with 25% (23) paused, 26% (24) closed to recruitment and 2% (two) in setup.
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust: 38% (33) of studies open to recruitment, with 41% (35) paused and 21% (18) closed to recruitment.
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: 46% (458) of studies open to recruitment, with 44% (431) paused, 5% (45) closed to recruitment and 5% (52) in setup.