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Tammy Thomas, Trial Manager at the University of Southampton, reflects on how COVID 19 had affected SNIFSII recruitment.  

Tammy

We were building relationships with practices and recruitment was taking off in the right direction, then the pandemic hit and we flatlined, we didn’t just see a slow decrease, it was a complete halt – clinicians, quite rightly, had their attention diverted elsewhere.  The effects of the pandemic and the changes to the ways in which patients were consulted resulted in the team designing a recruitment method that could work, for both practitioner and the team, when and if the pressure was lifted from our primary care colleagues. 

Then came a second wave ‘lockdown’ again, around the same time as the vaccine was being introduced, so our PC colleagues were, again, reluctant to agree to research as the vaccine program was rolled out and no doubt further increase their workload and divert their priorities.

The impact wasn’t just on recruitment, staff were feeling deflated, monitoring our websites and databases for recruitment, follow up or end of study doc, as well as managing the new way in which we are working, remotely, whilst twice being served notice of our contracts, a real worrying time personally and professionally.

The chart shows how those 8 months impacted our recruitment figures and how, since January, we have been working hard with the practices who have continued to work with us to reenable study recruitment.  Supported by the study team, we have seen a slow but progressive increase in patient recruitment.  Not all previously participating practices have agreed to continue with the study, so our time is limited, our resources are limited but we strive to meet our targets and deliver the results.  How this will affect our (follow up) return rates, is yet to be seen.  But I am very proud of our team and how we have adapted to all the changes and how we worked together to support each other and to ensure we reach our targets.  I am also very grateful to the SPCR for allowing us an extension to complete the study, which also, of course, extended our contracts.