Team: From March 2020, and in line with the government recommendations, the IBD BioResource team had to relocate their working environment to the comfort of their own homes. We quickly had to adapt to new ways of working remotely, and together as one, despite being apart. We have since, and like many others, mastered the likes of ‘Teams or Zoom’!
Recruitment: Understandably, IBD BioResource has also suffered a temporary halt on patient recruitment from all NHS Trust sites taking part in our study. This was a result of all face-to-face outpatient gastroenterology clinics being stopped and replaced by virtual consultations, as well as research and clinical staff being re-deployed to help dealing with COVID-19.
Research: Despite this set back, the NIHR and IBD BioResources have proudly continued supporting vital studies throughout the pandemic, some of which were very important in helping to address the impact of COVID-19 on our patients. For example, understanding if immunosuppressant therapies used in IBD increase COVID-19 infection rates and adverse outcomes (hospital / intensive care unit admission or death), or if the vaccine immunogenicity is affected in immunosuppressed IBD patients.
Knowledge transfer: The IBD BioResource takes great pride in sharing its work and progress with professionals, patients and the public. However, to continue disseminating our work in recent times, we too had to join the digital age and conquer the marvels of online communication platforms! While public, patient and scientific activities have understandably been reduced, we still managed to attend and present at many online events (e.g. Facebook live Q&A; Crohn’s & Colitis UK ‘Patient involvement in research day’, British Society of Gastroenterology online Campus… to name a few).
Time to give back!
It is clear that 2020-2021 has been a year of many challenges for all, but also for many of our charities who help drive research for the benefit of IBD patients.
So a few members of our (extended) team took the opportunity to give back and participated in virtual events to raise money for both Crohn’s and Colitis UK and Guts UK … all the while keeping fit and active! A win-win situation!
Looking to the future:
IBD BioResource has been able to resume recruitment activities from mid-September 2020, and despite a very slow start, we now have over half of our participating sites recruiting for us once again. It definitely feels good to be back in ‘business’!
Our core team is to this day still working from home, but we are hoping to gradually phase back to working in the office. The last 15-18 months has certainly helped us look to the future and given us time to reflect on the way we run our study. Indeed, working in a pandemic era has taught us that we need to adapt to situations and move with the times. As a result we have been making changes to the way we will recruit future patients by:
1/ broadening ways to take part and
2/ enabling remote recruitment and electronic consenting.
Reviewing the way we do things is of potential benefit to our study and our patients, but it has also enabled us to work in partnership with many colleagues across the wider NIHR BioResource and allowed for new skills to be learnt along the way. Another win-win situation!
Finally we have also spent the last 12 months preparing the set-up for a paediatric extension to the study (‘Paediatric IBD BioResource’) being co-led from Oxford. Watch this space!