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Restarting all paused research would be ‘waste of money’

NIHR’s plans for restarting research paused during pandemic says non-viable studies should be dropped

The National Institute for Health Research has set out plans to restart research that has been paused due to Covid-19, but it said that every paused study should undergo a check of its viability before restarting.

In a statement published on 21 May, the funder said the time was right to “work towards the restoration of a diverse and active portfolio of research funded and/or supported by the NIHR”.

This includes “both non-Covid-19 research and important Covid-19 research which does not meet our urgency criteria”, it said.

The new framework sets out a number of objectives, guiding principles and preconditions for restarting paused studies or starting new studies.

According to the guidance, only research that is assessed to still be viable should restart or start.

“Some studies that have been paused or have not yet started may no longer be viable, for scientific, clinical, financial or practical reasons,” the funder said. “It would be unethical and a waste of money to restart/start studies that are no longer viable.”

In addition, the guidance states that research can only take place when it is safe to do so, taking into account the risk of exposure to Covid-19; government guidance on social-distancing; and the vulnerability of the researchers to the virus, among other criteria.

While any restart or commencement of new research should be “commensurate with capacity and readiness in local health and care services and the NIHR”.

The funder said it had established a cross-centre NIHR Restart Implementation Group chaired by William van’t Hoff, chief executive officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, to monitor restart across England to identify and help to resolve “any cross-cutting issues that may arise”.

NIHR also announced on 22 May that the government is investing £7m in five new national Patient Recruitment Centres at NHS hospitals to increase research capacity within the NHS.

The centres, which will be managed by the NIHR and run by NHS trusts are excepted to help patients access trials and potential treatments as well as to boost investment in NHS from the global life science industry.

“The importance of clinical research has never been more evident than in the Covid-19 pandemic,” said van’t Hoff. “The NIHR has been able to help fund and to support key research studies and trials into…Covid-19.”