Meeting the challenge: running a trial at the coal face of NHS care

I’ve been a regular visitor to our wards at North Tees since the trial began seven short weeks ago. Each time I visit, I am impressed and humbled by the tireless professionalism of the NHS staff treating patients in such a busy environment. As I stood last Saturday morning taking notes of the swab locations for that week, I watched a young nurse giving new meaning to the word “multi-tasking” as she answered the phone, directed colleagues, cleaned her station and still managed to track down a misplaced slipper.

It’s hard to feel stressed seeing people handle themselves so well around you, but this trial was always going to have its challenges. The reality of NHS wards is that conditions are never perfect, the environment is never sterile, and the number of staff who support the ward in any capacity is staggering. It’s been our mission to run our clinical trial in a scientifically responsible way, remaining impartial and orderly, whilst also responding to challenges that may arise. Our cleaning staff have been under extra pressure as rising rates of Covid infections across the country have bitten into the workforce and seen cleaners covering our wards who haven’t yet been part of the trial. It’s been our job to check those cleaners have received the Pathisol training and are regularly briefed as a team by their supervisors. The risk of cleaners reverting to the usual cleaning solutions due to demand and lack of supply has been expertly controlled by Angela, Michelle and Mel, colleagues who have ensured a constant supply of Pathisol in each ward’s cleaning store. When our Teesside University student caught Covid herself, I took it upon myself to visit the microbiology lab and spent time there training and receiving instruction so that, last Saturday, I was able to take the swabs and keep the trial on schedule.

It’s nothing compared to the efforts that nurse and her colleagues make in caring for their patients, but I’m proud of everyone who has been involved in the trial so far for the sheer determination and flexibility they’ve shown in safeguarding the trial against compromise and absorbing the shocks that come from operating at the coal face of the NHS.

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