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RECOVERY trial: understanding successful COVID research recruitment

4 October 2021
New study by UCLPartners and NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North Thames will help to inform future research recruitment.

UCLPartners and NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North Thames have carried out a study to understand the success behind COVID-19 research recruitment at Barnet and Newham hospital sites.

Recommendations from the study – outlined in a new report entitled “A Story of Surges, Super Recruiters, and Small Sites” – will help to inform future research recruitment.

The RECOVERY trial (an international trial identifying beneficial treatments for those hospitalised with COVID-19) saw successful recruitment on many sites within UCLPartners’ geography. Newham and Barnet recruited to RECOVERY 4.2 and 5.3 times above their NIHR portfolio recruitment in the previous year. Other sites included in the trial which saw an increase include North Middlesex Hospital, Whittington NHS Trust, Basildon University Hospital, and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals.

To learn from this activity, UCLPartners and CRN North Thames developed qualitative studies at both sites.

21 staff members involved in RECOVERY recruitment were interviewed to understand the narrative behind this success and develop theories of change as to how improvements in trial recruitment can be sustained and built upon. This included interviews with research nurses, doctors, research and development leads, and trial managers.

Nine themes arose from the interviews, each outlining a different phenomenon of success. They have been grouped under three headings:

  • A team effort
  • Research systems capability
  • Staff and patient motivation

The trial recruitment demonstrates the appetite for research within communities underserved by research and the ability and achievement of small and newly formed research teams.

Lucy Brock, Head of Education, UCLPartners, said: “Listening to staff tell the story of RECOVERY trial activity, their commitment and belief in the priority of research activity is striking. As they bear witness to what can be achieved through integrated teamworking and effective resources, they also give us directives as to how improvements can be sustained. These are not overnight fixes, but we have the right players around the table to keep making progress.”

Dr Sharon Barrett, Chief Operating Officer, CRN North Thames, said: “Alongside Newham and Barnet Hospitals, many more of our partner organisations across CRN North Thames contributed to the RECOVERY study. Research teams and NHS hospital staff helped over 3000 patients take part in this important study across the region. In doing so, RECOVERY has been able to provide data which has led to life saving treatments against this disease and I want to thank all those involved.”

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