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Supporting studies: delivering COVID-19 research in the East Midlands

Supporting studies: delivering COVID-19 research in the East Midlands

CRN East Midlands supports the set up and delivery of research studies across the region. Study Support Service Divisional Manager Marie Thompson explains more about her role during the COVID-19 pandemic...

“Whether it’s studies testing the effectiveness of existing medicines, research to see whether we can find a vaccine to prevent the spread of disease, or testing new devices to see if they can help with diagnosing or monitoring, we’ve been working hard to make sure that our region is at the forefront of the research response,” Marie says. Her role includes Primary Care research, and the Study Service team has been working to support the establishment of a number of different COVID-19 studies at sites across the region.

The process begins with the Study Support Team obtaining all information that they can about each study, before highlighting it to sites and inviting them to express an interest in taking part. “Our aim is to make the process as simple and smooth as possible for sites, so that they can integrate research into their activities with the maximum benefit and minimum disruption,” she says.

Marie believes that the pandemic has led to improved collaboration and communication within research. “We now have weekly virtual meetings for some of the studies, where we get updates and can talk through any issues that have been identified,” she explains. In addition, Marie adds that the additional focus on research has led to a number of GP practices that previously were not research active getting involved in the delivery of studies. “Everyone wants to support us and do their bit,” she says.

As well as working on COVID-19 research, Marie is also involved in the Restart project, which is seeking to support the resumption of studies that were paused because of the pandemic. “As we see a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases, we are working to restart research so that as many people as possible have opportunities to take part in research studies,” Marie says. 

This work sees Marie working as part of a panel to assess whether studies are in a position to be unpaused, including assessing whether there is enough capacity to deliver them, and to ensure that sites have taken measures to prevent the spread of the virus. “As important as COVID-19 research is, it’s vital that we can continue to deliver research into other illnesses and conditions, and we are working hard to make sure that we can provide opportunities for people to take part in research that is safe and secure,” she adds.

The Study Support Team has had to adapt working patterns as a result of the pandemic, but Marie believes that this has mostly been positive. “At first it felt quite strange working at home, as we’re all so used to being around each other and sharing an office. We quickly adapted and in some ways it’s meant that we are now more productive than before.” Of particular value, she adds, has been greater use of digital tools such as the Google Suite of programmes to hold meetings and share information and documents,

“In many ways, being apart from each other has actually meant that we have grown stronger as a team,” Marie continues. “Everyone has had their own individual challenges to respond to, but because we’re all in the same boat we’ve come together with a commitment to supporting the establishment of the research that is so essential to helping us find a way to beat COVID-19.”

Find more information about the Study Support Service and how we can work with you here.