Preston set for pioneering trial into long Covid

Multi-million pound research to take place in city over debilitating effects of Long Covid on sufferers
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Experts in Preston are to join the largest clinical study yet undertaken into Long Covid

A major new consortium led by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and UCL, in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire, has been awarded £6.8m by the National Institute of Health Research to conduct the largest clinical study of long Covid over the next two years.

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The research programme will inform medium- and longer-term policy and health system responses.

Preston set for multi-million pound trial into Long Covid 
Photo: ShutterstockPreston set for multi-million pound trial into Long Covid 
Photo: Shutterstock
Preston set for multi-million pound trial into Long Covid Photo: Shutterstock

The consortium is made up of more than 30 researchers, health professionals, patients and industry partners from more than 30 organisations working together under the banner of STIMULATE-ICP (Symptoms, Trajectory, Inequalities and Management: Understanding Long-Covid to Address and Transform Existing Integrated Care Pathways).

It is hoped the programme will deliver knowledge to clinicians and scientists, evidence to policy makers and improved care to patients, while collecting real-world data at scale.

The team spans a wide range of relevant clinical and academic disciplines including primary care and specialist services, epidemiology, mental health and health economics. It also includes four patient groups who helped develop the research proposals.

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The study’s co-principal investigator Prof Amitava Banerjee said: “Two million people in the UK are estimated to have had persistent symptoms for more than 12 weeks following initial Covid infection, with far-reaching impact on patients, health care and the economy.

“More than 80 long Covid clinics have been established around England but we need to better understand, diagnose and treat this new disease. Inequalities in access to and provision of long Covid care have already become apparent.

“Long Covid is challenging the NHS and health care systems around the world, which have had to deal with the acute consequences of coronavirus over the last 18 months.”

To improve recovery, the team will work out what long Covid is, how to diagnose it and how to manage it. They will interview patients and health professionals and analyse data from NHS records, informing our understanding of patterns of long Covid and the outcomes of current clinical practice.

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Within the overall programme of research, a trial coordinated by the University of Central Lancashire will recruit more than 4,500 people with long-Covid, starting with six sites in Hull, Derby, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Exeter.

Denise Forshaw, deputy director of Lancashire Clinical Trials Unit and principal clinical trials manager from UCLan, said: “Over the past year, it’s become clear that Long Covid is a serious and widespread issue that is likely to last for years to come, affecting over a million people in the UK alone.

"While dedicated Long Covid clinics are now in place, there is still much that we have yet to understand about the long-term impact and effective treatment of this illness.

“Through this research, we hope to establish effective investigation, treatment, and rehabilitation pathways that can mitigate the physical and mental health impacts of Long Covid, and create a more certain future for those affected regardless of their socio-economic background.”

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