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University Hospitals Plymouth’s new Mobile Research Units protecting babies against RSV

Picture of the side of the Mobile Research Unit

Side view of the Mobile Research Unit

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has launched a new initiative – utilising mobile research units (MRUs) to bring health research into the community.

The first of its kind for the South West, the MRUs are the result of a successful bid for nearly £33,000 in funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula (NIHR CRN SWP) via the COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce.

The MRUs are already out in the community, delivering a new antibody treatment to babies as part of the HARMONIE study, which is looking at the effectiveness of nirsevimab, an immunisation that has been shown to reduce lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV by 74.5% in trials of over 4,000 babies.

The initial idea for the MRUs came from a survey undertaken by the Research and Development team prior to the pandemic. 97% of respondents said that they would be more likely to take part in a research study if it were in their locality and they did not have to travel to the hospital site to take part.

The aim of the MRUs is to bring research opportunities, such as the RSV treatment, to the wider population, to improve patient care, to support the growth and delivery of research within the primary care setting, and to help address the healthcare needs of the people of Plymouth, reducing strain on the services at Derriford hospital. They also have the added benefit of supporting a reduction in the carbon footprint by taking the clinic to the patient.

“This is really good news for the people of Plymouth and the local population,” explains Dr Gary Minto, Medical Director of Research and Development at UHP. “For many years, our main strategy has been to reflect the needs of the local population, as well as transformation in healthcare delivery. So we have had the will to do it. And now we have the vehicles to do it as a team.”

“Recent studies have shown that there is clearly an inequality of access to healthcare research in UK, and we know that in Plymouth many are unable to travel up to the hospital to participate. Bringing research to participants will thus not only increase our engagement, but it will also open up opportunities to those who have not taken part before, as we begin to tackle this inequality.”

“We have already begun to meet with primary care partners and GPs to discuss how we can work alongside the integrated care pathway to deliver research activities in Plymouth and the surrounding rural areas,” said Gary. “Our goal is to work in partnership with locality partners to provide access to research for a much wider catchment of participants. We are also engaging with local involvement groups, to learn how best to do this. It is a really exciting time.”

Dr Pauline McGlone, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the NIHR CRN SWP, said: “I am delighted to see that University Hospitals Plymouth are developing their infrastructure to support wider access to research opportunities.

“The hospital has a successful track record of running complex and large-scale studies and it is great to see that broadening access is a real focus for the Trust. It is great to see the mobile research unit up and running to support better awareness, engagement in research and developing collaborative working. I am sure the Trust will make good use of these units and I look forward to hearing about the successes."

By using the MRUs, the HARMONIE study was able to recruit 7 babies in just the first week with more patients signing up as RSV cases continue to rise in the community. The study is open to newborn babies and those up to 12 months old with only one immunisation being needed and follow-up sessions being offered via an app.

To find out more about Research and Development at University Hospitals Plymouth, please visit: www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/research.

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