Over 246,000 people in London and the South East took part in research in 2022-23, new figures show, as a consultant urged Londoners to sign up for clinical trials to help “save lives”.
Data from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) showed a total of 246,771 volunteers took part in NIHR-supported health and care research across London and the South East during the period.
Research helps the NHS to develop better treatments and improve medical diagnosis.
Professor Andrew Shennan OBE, a Co-Clinical Director of the NIHR CRN South London and Consultant Obstetrician at Guy's and St Thomas', has urged Londoners to take part in clinical trials to help mould treatments for future generations.
“Research only makes discoveries that improve and save lives because of the thousands of people who take part each year. I call on even more Londoners to volunteer to shape the future of healthcare for the next 75 years and beyond!”
Patients told of how research had helped change their lives to mark International Clinical Trials Day on Saturday.
Mercy Njoku, 55, from Lambeth, took part in the HEAL-COVID trial at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation from February 2022 until February 2023. Her long Covid meant she couldn’t return to work for six months due to extreme tiredness.
The trial sought to identify treatments that could benefit people hospitalised with Covid-19 and later discharged with their recovery.
She signed up for the trial while in hospital.
Ms Njoku said: “Research gives us hope. I had regular monthly calls from the HEAL-COVID research team, where they checked in about my recovery. The research nurse, Sara, encouraged me and pushed me to keep going. Her support meant a lot to me, and she celebrated every small milestone and success..
“The HEAL-COVID trial was the first time I took part in research directly, and I would do the same again in the future to help others.”
Ms Njoku took atorvastatin, a blood-thinning drug, daily and had monthly follow-up phone calls with a nurse where she answered a series of questions about her Covid-19 recovery as part of her involvement in the trial.
“My message to other people with long COVID is: there is hope. You can recover, stay positive and take things one step at a time! I'm feeling great and proud that I can do normal things like going out to the shops again,” she added.
Antoinette Martin’s son Raffy, aged 11 months, took part in the HARMONIE study at Bart’s Health NHS Trust into Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the biggest cause of hospitalisation of very young children in the world. The virus affects 90 per cent of children before the age of two.
Ms Martin, a trainee GP who lives in Mile End, wanted to protect Raffy after her daughter Eden was hospitalised by RSV last year.
She said: “In the winter of 2021, Eden developed a cough. By the fifth day of having the cough, she was getting worse, really trying hard to breathe and going blue. We drove her to the Royal London Hospital, and the team put her on oxygen straightaway. She was unwell for another five days before she came home.
“The team looking after her at the Royal London Hospital was fantastic. They really took the best care of her.”
Ms Martin said of the trial: “I heard about it from a group of doctor friends. It was really easy to take part. I filled in an online form, and within a day or so, the study team had already contacted me.
“We arranged a study visit, and this took place a couple of weeks ago. Raffy received the vaccine, which is great. He was monitored for 30 minutes afterwards, and then we could go home. The study team was really friendly.”