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Call for Welsh care homes to be part of new COVID-19 trial

1 February 2021

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Care homes across Wales are being asked to take part in a ground-breaking trial looking at reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and its severity in care homes.

As part of the trial, researchers will test drugs that already show promise for treating COVID-19 – but will use them to prevent it instead.

The team will focus on care home residents because they are at high risk from COVID-19, with the aim to reduce the number and severity of cases in those homes.

The team is initially looking for up to 400 care homes from across the UK to take part in the trial called PROTECT. Wales has more than 1,200 care homes looking after approximately 26,000 residents, many of whom have dementia or physical care needs.

If PROTECT can identify an effective drug to reduce the severity of COVID-19, and the likelihood of transmission, then this, alongside other measures, could help enable a return to a more normal life for care home residents and their families, including more liberal visiting policies.

The trial will have a “platform” structure, which will rapidly evaluate candidate treatments for COVID-19. However, PROTECT will randomise care homes (rather than individual residents) to one of up to three drugs or no additional treatment, in a cluster randomised controlled design.

This design allows several drugs to be tested in parallel and then for new drugs to be added once the first candidates have been shown to be beneficial or have no useful effect. Treatment will be given alongside the ongoing vaccination programme.

Health and Care Reasearch Wales Speciality lead and Clinical Senior Lecturer in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine at Cardiff University, Jonathan Hewitt, said: “As we’ve seen during the pandemic it’s those most vulnerable who are the ones dying of COVID-19 and life in care homes across the country has changed dramatically over the past couple of months.

“With that in mind, ongoing research, not only medically, but within the care sector too is paramount in identifying ways in which we can better treat and prevent the spread of this virus.

“As one of the few academic geriatricians in Wales, I welcomed the national approach with Welsh care homes and members of the public contributing to such life-changing research. I look forward to working together to help craft the research needed to protect those most at risk.”

Funded by National Institute for Health Research and supported by Health and Care Research Wales and ENRICH Cymru, the trial will be coordinated from the University of Nottingham working with colleagues from Cardiff University and Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Surrey and Warwick,  Queen’s University Belfast and University College London.

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If you are a care home manager and would be interested in hearing more about the trial and potentially taking part, please complete the expression of interest survey.

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