The NIHR published a Framework on 21 May 2020 – when the NHS started to restore routine clinical services – to support the restarting of research paused due to COVID-19. Developed in partnership with multiple stakeholders and the devolved nations, the Framework provides a flexible structure for local decision-making.
There’s been steady progress since that time with 69 percent of studies that were paused now restarted and 60 percent of these recruiting participants. However, given the huge surge in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of variants, we know that this performance will be difficult to maintain where routine care on which research relies is delayed, or capacity to support non-COVID studies is limited. Rather than recommending a national ‘pause’ of new studies as NIHR did in Spring 2020, they are advising that such research is supported as possible in line with the Restart Framework.
Dr William van’t Hoff, CEO of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) and Senior Responsible Officer for the Restart Programme, said: “Given the pressure the NHS is under, our focus right now has to be on urgent public health research into COVID-19, including delivery of prioritised vaccine studies and platform therapeutics trials. However, we are actively collaborating with research system partners to ensure that non-COVID research can quickly regain momentum as and when things ease up in the Spring.”
As of 20 January 2021, our data indicate that since the Restart Framework was published:
Going forward, NIHR is playing its part as one of a group of key partners working to take coordinated action to recover non-COVID research and to build a better and more resilient clinical research delivery system for the future. Our partners include DHSC, the devolved nations, the Office for Life Sciences, NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Digital, NHSX, the regulatory authorities (HRA and MHRA), industry and medical research charities.
Future updates will focus on this sector-wide programme of work.
During this difficult period of time, we have maintained contact with leaders of non-COVID studies, trials and projects funded through NIHR’s research programmes and learned how they have adapted in order to continue. We found examples of those already planning online trials being able to resume relatively quickly. For others, where possible, protocols had been updated and received approval to continue through lockdowns, in some instances converting to online or remote formats in place of in person. Lack of access to labs has, however, caused some delays, such as when externally procured components incurred longer lead times.
For further details including useful resources, and the latest stories from the local VCRN networks visit https://www.nihr.ac.uk/news/nihr-issues-final-update-on-implementation-of-the-restart-framework/26717