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Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral University Teaching Hospital’s vital contribution to COVID-19 research studies

Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) is playing its part in COVID-19 research. Clinicians and the Research Department at WUTH are contributing to eight studies, categorised as an Urgent Public Health Research by the Department of Health and Social Care*. One of these, the RECOVERY Trial, is the largest randomised controlled trial of potential COVID-19 treatments in the world, involving 130 NHS hospitals across the UK. The Trust has recruited 180 patients to this important study.

Dr Andrew Wight, Consultant Respiratory Physician and local lead for RECOVERY trial, said: “As well as dealing with the on-going care of our COVID-19 patients, it’s vitally important that we contribute to national research efforts to understand the disease and how we can develop ways to respond in the future. We are recruiting positive COVID-19 patients in hospital to a variety of different studies.”

To date, the RECOVERY trial has reported results for three potential treatments. One of these, dexamethasone, a widely used corticosteroid, was shown to reduce the risk of death by about one-third among patients receiving ventilation and by one-fifth in those requiring oxygen alone.

Reporting results in a just a matter of weeks, is unprecedented in research. Setting up, recruiting participants, running trials and reporting reliable results can often take years. The collaboration of so many hospitals has been crucial, to ensure the number of participants necessary to provide meaningful data.

RECOVERY is still very much an active trial and is currently testing other treatments which could improve outcomes further. These include the use of convalescent plasma, the plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. This can be transfused into people with COVID-19 who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

One of the first patients to receive this trial treatment was Wirral resident, Jeffrey Andrews, aged 53 from Woodchurch, who was admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital on 30th September. When he arrived at the hospital, he was breathless, feverish, had lost his sense of taste and smell and he had aching muscles. Unsurprisingly, his swab test was positive for COVID-19 and he was taken to a ward where he received oxygen and the drug, dexamethasone. This has become a standard daily treatment for COVID-19 patients, since the trials earlier in the year showed it was effective.

The following day, the trial treatment using convalescent plasma was discussed and he agreed to take part. He received two transfusions of the antibody rich plasma. His condition stabilised and then improved and by the 4th October he was well enough to go home.

Mr Andrews said: “I was happy to take part in this trial. I thought it was a great idea and I knew that the plasma was safe as it was thoroughly tested and screened.”

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) are urgently appealing for more people to donate plasma and particularly prioritising males who have been hospitalised due to a tendency to have higher antibodies.

However, NHSBT are also keen to access volunteers who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 or the symptoms of the disease.  Please volunteer to donate plasma by calling 0300 123 23 23, or by providing your details at www.nhsbt.nhs.uk

Many clinicians at WUTH engage in research, supported by a team of 10 research nurses, a research midwife and the administrative staff based within the Research Department. WUTH’s medical teams are amongst the leaders for outstanding recruitment to international trials for a number of COVID-19 related studies. WUTH is in the top 10% for recruitment of patients to the GenOMICC study, which is looking at the genetic code of patients with COVID-19, to help scientists understand whether a person’s genetics may influence their susceptibility to the virus.

Dr Nikki Stevenson, Executive Medical Director, Deputy Chief Executive and Consultant Respiratory Physician at WUTH said: “Wirral University Teaching Hospital actively supports and encourages research. Since 2015 this hospital has recruited over 4,000 participants to a wide variety of research studies. Medical research is vital to improve to treatment and care of patients. We’re grateful to all our patients who consent to participate in our research studies and trials.”