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The impact of COVID-19 on Ophthalmology Clinical Research in the UK and support via the NIHR RESTART Framework

24 September 2020

Prior to COVID, approximately 80% of Trusts were engaged with at least one study, with on average 15,000 patients recruited to Ophthalmology studies per year. The NIHR’s Ophthalmology Specialty Group (OSG) for the Clinical Research Network has been working closely with its regional leads across the UK to support the sites where 41% of portfolio studies have been paused because of COVID.

Professor Rupert Bourne, who chairs the OSG, has been working with other National Specialty Leads in developing the NIHR’s RESTART Framework. Currently, 58% of Ophthalmology studies nationally are open to recruitment, following decisions by each study’s triad of sponsor/CI/funder to re-open post-COVID and in some cases continue without pausing during the lockdown. The overwhelming response from site Principal Investigators in Ophthalmology is that they wish to continue recruitment to the paused studies given that most hospitals have restarted seeing ‘routine’ Ophthalmology outpatients but with social distancing arrangements. Where site PIs are having difficulty doing this because of local issues, they are encouraged to contact their OSG Regional Leads, who can provide guidance and support.

To encourage continued patient participation in ophthalmology clinical research, Christiana Dinah, lead for Patient and Public Involvement in the OSG, has worked with NIHR Communications to produce an excellent short video for patients. The NIHR OSG is encouraging ophthalmologists, optometrists, patient support groups and eye charities in the UK to watch this and disseminate widely. The short video can be played in waiting areas, shared via Trust websites and social media channels.

Further information, please contact the OSG via [email protected]

RESTART Framework can be found at https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/restart-framework/24886

OSG Regional Leads can be found at https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Figure-2-Ophthalmology-leads-map_Aug18.pdf

https://youtu.be/ES_8oYWYvnE