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New national study into the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 launched

Updated: July 5, 2020, 10:13 a.m.

A major UK research study into the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 on hospitalised patients has been launched today.

The PHOSP-COVID study has been awarded £8.4million jointly by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). This study is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (a partnership between the University of Leicester and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust), the PHOSP-COVID study will draw on expertise from a consortium of leading researchers and clinicians from across the UK to assess the impact of COVID-19 on patient health and their recovery.

Around 10,000 patients are expected to take part, making it the largest comprehensive study in the world to understand and improve the health of survivors after hospitalisation from COVID-19.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

As we continue our fight against this global pandemic, we are learning more and more about the impact the disease can have not only on immediate health, but longer-term physical and mental health too.

This world-leading study is another fantastic contribution from the UK's world-leading life sciences and research sector. It will also help to ensure future treatment can be tailored as much as possible to the person.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said:

As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus it is also important to look at the longer term impacts on health, which may be significant.

We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives but we should also look at how COVID-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease.

This UKRI and NIHR funded study is one of the first steps in doing this.

Chris Brightling, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Leicester, Consultant Respiratory Physician at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and chief investigator for the study said:

As we emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, we have new insights into the acute phase of this disease but very little information about patients’ long term needs.

It is vitally important that we rapidly gather evidence on the longer term consequences of contracting severe COVID-19 so we can develop and test new treatment strategies for them and other people affected by future waves of the disease.

Symptoms of COVID-19 have varied among those who have tested positive: some have displayed no symptoms, while others have developed severe pneumonia and sadly even lost their lives. For those who were hospitalised and have since been discharged, it is not yet clear what the medical, psychological and rehabilitation needs for this group of patients will be to enable them to make as full a recovery as possible.

Patients on the study will be assessed using techniques such as advanced imaging, data collection and analysis of blood and lung samples, creating a comprehensive picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on longer term health outcomes across the UK.

The PHOSP-COVID team will then develop trials of new strategies for clinical care, including personalised treatments for groups of patients based on the particular disease characteristics they show as a result of having COVID-19 to improve their long term health.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Ottoline Leyser, said:

We have much to learn about the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 and its management in hospital, including the effects of debilitating lung and heart conditions, fatigue, trauma and the mental health and wellbeing of patients. UKRI is collaborating with NIHR to fund one of the world’s largest studies to track the long-term effects of the virus after hospital treatment, recognising that for many people survival may be just the start of a long road to recovery. This study will support the development of better care and rehabilitation and, we hope, improve the lives of survivors.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Leicester said:

The University of Leicester continues to play a world-leading role in the UK and beyond in health research. The confidence in our pioneering research and our researchers as true Citizens of Change, is recognised through the awarding of the PHOSP-COVID study. I am incredibly proud of the achievements of our researchers throughout the coronavirus pandemic who have demonstrated the power of, and importance of world-changing research to transform patient outcomes and ultimately to save lives.

Rebecca Brown, Acting Chief Executive of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust said:

University Hospitals of Leicester has demonstrated its culture of research and innovation during the pandemic: we introduced the SPACES model for ward layout to protect staff, were the highest recruiting site to key drug trials like RECOVERY, and have worked with our academic partners to understand and protect our diverse ethnic minority population. I am proud we are the lead NHS trust to investigate the long term effects of COVID-19 as presented in our clinics - it is the next step in our journey to tackle this disease.

Professor Melanie Davies, Director of the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre said:

The purpose of a Biomedical Research Centre is to translate scientific breakthroughs into benefits for patients at pace.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the value of centres like ours in Leicester where we are leading research embedded into clinical care settings, which will have a direct impact on patient care, and we are delighted to be awarded this prestigious funding to continue our exemplary record in the fight against coronavirus.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Innovation at Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, said:

Understanding the long-term impact of COVID-19 is vital to protect and improve the lung health of those with respiratory conditions. Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation are committed to the sharing of information through our post-COVID hub and encourages collaboration to ensure anyone with lasting respiratory impacts from COVID can enjoy the best possible health and quality of life. We are delighted to be contributing to the patient and public engagement aspects of this study as well as helping with dissemination among the public and policy makers and look forward to learning more about the long term impact of COVID-19-as the study develops.

The PHOSP-COVID study is widely supported across the NIHR infrastructure, including the Translational Research Collaborations for respiratory, mental health, cardiovascular, dementia, and diet, exercise and nutrition, and many of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, which are set up to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

To follow the study as it develops, visit www.phosp.org

Notes for editors

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Rachael Dowling, Head of Research Communications at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust/NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre on 07950 891193 or Rachael.dowling@uhl-tr.nhs.uk

Mina Sharma, Media Relations Manager at the University of Leicester on 0116 252 2160 or ms1125@leicester.ac.uk

Full list of partner organisations, correct at time of press release*:

  • Respiratory TRC network
  • Mental Health TRC network
  • University of Leicester/ NIHR Leicester BRC /NIHR Leicester Clinical Research Facility (CRF)
  • University of Oxford/ NIHR Oxford BRC/ NIHR Oxford Health BRC /NIHR Oxford Cognitive Health CRF
  • University of Manchester/ NIHR Manchester BRC /NIHR Manchester CRF
  • Imperial College London/ NIHR Imperial BRC /NIHR Imperial CRF
  • University College London/NIHR UCLH BRC / NIHR UCLH CRF
  • King’s College London/NIHR Maudsley BRC/NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC / NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ CRF /NIHR Kings CRF
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • University of Liverpool / NIHR Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen CRF
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Dundee University (including the FOLLOW Network)
  • Glasgow University
  • Health and Care Research Wales
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • University of Nottingham/ NIHR Nottingham BRC /NIHR Nottingham CRF
  • University of Newcastle/ NIHR Newcastle BRC /NIHR Newcastle CRF
  • University of Cambridge/ NIHR Cambridge BRC /NIHR Cambridge CRF
  • University of Birmingham/ NIHR Birmingham BRC /NIHR Birmingham CRF
  • University of Sheffield/ NIHR Sheffield BRC/ NIHR Sheffield CRF
  • University of Leeds/ NIHR Leeds BRC / NIHR Leeds CRF
  • University of Bristol/ NIHR Bristol BRC
  • University of Southampton/ NIHR Southampton BRC/ NIHR Southampton CRF
  • St George’s University

*includes affiliated NHS trusts of the academic institutions

  • Asthma UK-British Lung Foundation

The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment. The University is home to just over 20,000 students and approximately 4,000 staff. Find out more: https://le.ac.uk/about

The NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The NIHR Leicester BRC undertakes translational clinical research in priority areas of high disease burden and clinical need. These include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and lifestyle, obesity and physical activity. There is also a cross-cutting theme for precision medicine. The BRC harnesses the power of experimental science to explore and develop ways to help prevent and treat chronic disease. It brings together 70 highly skilled researchers, 30 of which are at the forefront of clinical services delivery. By having scientists working closely with clinicians, the BRC can deliver research that is relevant to patients and the professionals who treat them. www.leicesterbrc.nihr.ac.uk

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.

This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support and would not have been possible without access to this data. The NIHR recognises and values the role of patient data, securely accessed and stored, both in underpinning and leading to improvements in research and care. www.nihr.ac.uk/patientdata

Please visit https://www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-19/ to learn about other studies that have been given urgent public health status and the single, national prioritisation process that has been established to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the resources and capacity of the health and care system to support COVID-19 research are not exceeded.

University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust: Every day at Leicester’s Hospitals we save lives, improve lives and usher in new life. We want to continue to improve everything that we do, so that we can achieve our vision: Caring at its best for every patient, every time.  Our strategy Becoming the Best describes how we are doing that in a determined, targeted and systematic way for the benefit of our patients.

As one of the largest NHS Trusts in the country, our contribution goes beyond health; we are the largest employer in our region, we educate and train the staff of the future, push the boundaries of research and with our £1bn turnover are an economic engine for East Midlands and beyond.

This is a particularly exciting time for Leicester’s Hospitals.  We have been given £450m to reconfigure services and build new hospitals. This will include a new Children’s Hospital, Maternity Hospital, Treatment Centre and two new Intensive Care Units.  Equally importantly, we are going “paperless”, with a £12m investment in our NerveCentre computer system to help our team deliver world-class care.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram.

Read more about what we do: www.leicestershospitals.co.uk

About Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation:

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation merged on the 1 January 2020.

Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. We are entirely funded by voluntary donations. For further information, please visit: http://www.asthma.org.uk.

The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity fighting to help the 1 in 5 people in the UK affected by lung disease. The charity provides support and information to improve the everyday lives of people with lung disease. We are also campaigning for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention for now and the future. For further information, please visit http://www.blf.org.uk.