THE trust which runs Winchester hospital has hosted a research and development event to raise awareness of the impact that clinical research has had throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs Andover and Basingstoke hospitals, used the staff event to demonstrate how its focus on research, development and learning were key attributes in its response to coronavirus.

In early 2020, as the trust worked to manage Covid-19, many opportunities opened for collaboration. These were designated as Urgent Public Health Studies by Public Health England (PHE) and were given priority in set up and resources. The trust’s research team continued to work through in-progress projects in tandem, to ensure work with patients in the middle of treatment was preserved.

One trial, the RECOVERY Study, was a randomised trial among 40,000 hospitalised patients with Covid-19. Of those 163 patients were being treated at Hampshire Hospitals, helping to find effective treatments, including Dexamethasone, which has been shown to reduce Covid deaths. Screening and enrolment for the study continues, as does the implementation of learnings to improve treatment and it is held as the main source of evidence about how to treat Covid around the world.

Another study, which is still ongoing, is SIREN – a national PHE project that the trust’s microbiology team was involved in from the early stages of the pandemic. Healthcare workers at the trust are being followed for a year to study their immune response to the Covid-19 virus, with an aim to see if a prior infection in a healthcare worker would provide immunity to re-infection. At HHFT, 348 staff members are part of the study. Early results show that, since the launch, 83 percent of people infected with Covid-19 had some protection against reinfection. The trust’s SIREN team also won an award for its research efforts during the pandemic from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex.

For the last eight months, a group of the trust’s research staff has joined the regional delivery of the vaccine trials at the Hampshire Vaccine Research Hub, alongside research staff from Solent NHS Trust, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Professionals – taking part in screening and recruiting volunteers in the trials of Covid-19 vaccines.

Speaking before the event, Natasha Chigbo, head of research and development at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know research-active trusts have been found to have better patient outcomes and we wanted to take the opportunity during the week of International Clinical Trials Day to shine a spotlight, celebrate achievements and use the momentum we have gained during Covid-19. To do this, we are running a virtual conference for staff, which will set the intention of the research strategy going forward, with speakers from all over the trust talking about their research efforts and how the trust can support research active colleagues with their work.

“After the last year, it’s particularly important to recognise the impact that research activity has on the care of our patients – from the ground-breaking innovations initiated by our microbiology teams to the involvement in delivering national clinical trials that have given us answers about the best treatment for Covid. Our clinical research is enabled by individuals and teams around the trust and it’s truly a team effort."