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The organization and impacts of clinical research delivery workforce redeployment during the COVID‐19 pandemic: a qualitative case study of one research‐intensive acute hospital trust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
Published18 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: DW, RFG, HC and CW are all funded by the NIHR (http:// Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London (Grant number IS-BRC-1215-20006). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. NH is a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) 70@70 Senior Nurse and Midwife Research Leader. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NIHR. Funding Information: The research infrastructure in England and Wales comprises a network of institutions and organizations working to support clinical research within the NHS. While research is funded through a variety of governmental, commercial and charitable sources, the creation of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) in 2006 was a key juncture in the development and coordination of a research system []. In particular, the NIHR has supported the establishment of 19 clinical research facilities (CRFs) and 20 biomedical research centres (BRCs) which provide support for experimental and translational research []. The NIHR also funds the Clinical Research Network (CRN), which funds and supports research staff embedded in NHS trusts across 30 different clinical specialties. Funding Information: The authors would like to acknowledge support from NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Chris McKevitt, and would also like to extend our deepest thanks to the research delivery staff at SLAT, whose work has contributed so much to studies conducted on and during COVID, including ours. Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).

King's Authors


Background: COVID-19 has tested healthcare and research systems around the world, forcing the large-scale reorganization of hospitals, research infrastructure and resources. The United Kingdom has been singled out for the speed and scale of its research response. The efficiency of the United Kingdom’s research mobilization was in large part predicated on the pre-existing embeddedness of the clinical research system within the National Health Service (NHS), a public, free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare system. In this paper we discuss the redeployment of the clinical research workforce to support the pandemic clinical services, detailing the process of organizing this redeployment, as well as the impacts redeployment has had on both staff and research delivery at one research-intensive acute NHS trust in London. Methods: A social science case study of one large research-active NHS trust drawing on data from an online questionnaire; participant observation of key research planning meetings; semi-structured interviews with staff involved in research; and document analysis of emails and official national and trust communications. Results: We found that at our case-study hospital trust, the research workforce was a resource that was effectively redeployed as part of the pandemic response. Research delivery workers were redeployed to clinical roles, to COVID-related research and to work maintaining the research system during the redeployment itself. Redeployed research workers faced some difficulties with technology and communication, but many had a positive experience and saw the redeployment as a significant and valuable moment in their career. Conclusions: This study explicates the role of the research delivery workforce for the United Kingdom’s COVID response. Redeployed research workers facilitated the emergency response by delivering significant amounts of patient care. The public also benefited from having a well-developed research infrastructure in place that was able to flexibly respond to a novel virus. Many research workers feel that the NHS should provide more support for this distinctive workforce.

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