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Coronavirus Diaries: Taking positives from the crisis

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Olivia Barnes is a Senior Research Nurse at Sherbourne Medical Centre in Leamington Spa. In this series of weekly posts she discusses how COVID-19 is impacting the clinical trials she is working on, as well as her work on studies in response to the virus. Read previous entries here.

I want to start with two positives this week. Firstly, with the daily government briefings, research gets mentioned almost every day, so I really hope it will put it more to the forefront of people’s minds and in the future if there is research in other areas, hopefully they will be more agreeable to take part.

Secondly, from a general practice point of view, I think more GPs might sign up to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre. When the COVID-19 studies all started, there were a lot of GPs who were interested in doing them, but they had to be a member of the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre. The real positive is not only that there is an opportunity to take part in these studies, but also sites that take part in research, their databases are cleaner because they have to be if doing research - you have to code properly, without free text – and that is to everybody’s benefit.

 

Study updates

We’ve been told studies may restart soon, but nothing as of yet has begun. However, we have had our first patient on a study back in the building. He’s been in the study for a year and there were a lot of bloods to be taken, so from a study point of view, it was in the patient’s interest to come in. We asked if he would be willing to come to the practice and he was, but if the patient hadn’t of been happy, we would obviously have done the visit over the phone. The study team had made allowances and the advice was that if we could get the patient back in within a month of the planned visit to do the bloods, that would still be acceptable.

We had to see him wearing full PPE and then there was a lot of cleaning afterwards. In the past we had a dedicated research room with everything we needed, whereas now we’re only using two rooms to see patients in. So I have to do a bit more planning to make sure I take all my research equipment I need down to the room with me, so that once we were in, we didn’t have to come in and out. It is a very different way of working, but we have two more patients coming in next week and I’m going to ask them how they feel about being in a study during COVID-19.

With our COVID-19 studies, we’re continuing with the serology study and we now have 130 taking part in that and I’ve just ordered more kits. The anti-malarial treatment study we were taking part in has been replaced by the antibiotic Azithromycin. It remains a two-armed study with all patients being tested, but 50% will now get Azithromycin instead of the anti-malarial drug.

However, the other COVID-19 studies have been very quiet, with no new recruits. It is obviously great that there are far fewer cases of COVID-19 now, but from a research point of view I don’t know if they have enough numbers or not to be viable. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if something could have been set up with the 111 service that may have worked better to direct patients to us, but they were so inundated with calls.

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