A Leeds hospital trust is taking part in a trial looking at the impact of nursing care when treating Covid-19 patients.

A national team of scientists and nurses, led by the University of Exeter, are researching nursing care for patients in hospital with COVID-19 and have been awarded £430,000 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to carry out the trial.

The ‘COVID-NURSE’ trial has been set up to evaluate the impact on patient experience of a combination of specific nursing innovations. Generated by a consortium of universities and NHS trusts, this evidence will help nursing teams nationally and internationally to adopt best practice when caring for COVID-19 patients.

Across the UK, clinical teams have innovated to meet challenges such as communicating with patients while wearing face masks and other PPE. In one example, nurses have pinned pictures of themselves to uniforms, so patients know who is caring for them. Enabling patients to continue to communicate with their loved ones, who have been unable to visit during the pandemic, has also led to nurses innovating using technologies and virtual means.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is among those taking part in the study which includes patients as well as scientists from the universities of Leicester, Nottingham, Southampton and King’s College London, and NHS Trust, as well as the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South West Peninsula.

Nursing is hugely important to people in hospital, with nursing care making a significant difference to the way people experience being in hospital and to their recovery.

For people with COVID-19, their symptoms and the infectiousness of the virus pose unique challenges for nurses in delivering this care.

Dr Heather Iles-Smith, Head of Nursing Research and Innovation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said:  “Delivering high quality nursing care in the isolation environment, whilst wearing PPE, has needed nurses and care staff to work differently and develop new skills.

“We now need to understand what those innovations have been and what has worked well and what hasn’t, so that we can make sure that future patients continue to receive the very best possible care.”

David Richards, Professor of Health Services Research at the University of Exeter and a nurse himself, is leading the study.

He said: “Nurses are critical to patient experience and care. Nurses help people with eating, drinking, going to the toilet, skin care, moving, keeping clean, breathing, communication and mental wellbeing.   We know many nurses have risen to the complex challenges of caring for people with COVID-19 in innovative ways. This study will help us establish what has proved effective, so that innovations that benefit patients can be rolled out.”

They will then undertake a type of randomised controlled trial called a ‘rapid-cycle’ trial, which will allow the team to quickly test these procedures across an initial 18 NHS sites to determine their impact on patient experience, care quality, patients’ ability to manage day-to-day activities, treatment outcomes and costs.

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