The impact of COVID-19

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Responding to COVID-19

The contribution of clinical academics in the UK’s response to COVID-19 has been immense. During the first wave of the pandemic, academics across all four nations returned to clinical practice to support the health service in a time of crisis. It is estimated that over 1500 trainees in England alone (representing over 90% of all trainees on NIHR’s Integrated Academic Training (IAT) pathway) were redeployed into clinical service. In addition, clinical academics have contributed to our understanding of COVID-19 undertaking invaluable research to help improve how we treat the disease and track the spread of the virus.

Challenges

While these contributions should be praised, the pandemic has resulted in major disruption to clinical academic training and career progression, exasperated by the closure of research facilities and suspension of non-COVID-19 clinical trials during the first wave.

The NIHR listed the following as major challenges that require addressing:

  • Restarting research effectively, especially where there is significant delay anticipated due to stalled clinical trials, rebreeding for animal experiments, closed research facilities, on-going restrictions to access to laboratories, etc.
  • Developing plans for project evolution where original plans may no longer be feasible
  • Delivering effective ‘re-entry’ mechanisms for individuals who have needed to take particularly prolonged periods away from clinical training and research due to clinical service needs or other reasons
  • Allowing new applications for Out of Programme Research while granting permissions to extend periods of out of programme for research for those whose plans have been disrupted by these exceptional circumstances.
  • Ongoing need to support the COVID-19 response in the possible scenario of multiple waves of infection across the UK
  • Retention in the NHS to manage the backlog of non-COVID-19 cases
  • Funding for necessary extension of research or clinical training arising because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Supporting clinical academics returning from the COVID-19 frontline

The Clinical Academic Training Forum (CATF) has formed a subgroup with representatives across the sector that is exploring how best to support clinical academics returning to their training from the COVID-19 front line. 

The Academy of Medical Sciences has developed a career support space for biomedical and health researchers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further reading