How the Pandemic affected us:
When all recruitment for the BioResource had to stop, our nurses went to support COVID-19 studies, including the vaccine trials. With no volunteers to join and down to two staff members, we decided to throw ourselves into a new system for signing volunteers up to the BioResource. In 2019, to help save paper, our we started using electronic consent. We updated this system so that volunteers would be able to give their consent and fill out our questionnaires from their own homes using their tablets or phones.
When we were able to open up the BioResource again, we contacted everyone who had been in touch about joining and used our new system to sign them up. Then we opened up a special clinic away from the hospital with a carpark so that people could come along and pop in to donate their blood sample in safety. This has really helped us be more inclusive to the people in our region.
The North East and North Cumbria where we are, is very large and contains some very rural areas. By using remote consent and working hard with our research active GP surgeries, volunteers from all over our region have been able to join up when they might not have been able to before.
We also put a lot of our time and energy into opening up two new BioResources in Newcastle. The Immune-mediated Inflammatory Disease BioResource (IMID) – which is a collaboration with Manchester and Leeds and looks at diseases that work by triggering the body's immune system to fight itself, and the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease BioResource (NAFLD) – which is a collaboration with Birmingham and Nottingham, and looks at diseases affecting the liver. Both BioResources are now open and signing up patients in Newcastle, and our IMID and NAFLD Coordinator Amber is working very hard with other hospitals up and down the country so that people all over the UK can join.
Looking to the future:
During the pandemic two new team members joined us. It is hard to join a new team when you are not able to meet face to face and very hard to start a new job when things are not running as they usually would. We are very much looking forward to being able to work together as a team for the first time and being able to work with the new staff across all three of our BioResources.
The thing we are most looking forward to is seeing our fantastic volunteers. We have been amazed by the generosity of the thousands of people who have still taken part in NIHR research despite everything that has happened in the last year. We have missed our public events and look forward to being able to see you all and tell you about the amazing things we have done in the last year and plan to do in the future.