Taking part in coronavirus research in hospital

If you become unwell due to COVID-19 and have to go into hospital, you may have the opportunity to take part in a research study. As this is a new disease, we need to learn about it and find new treatments quickly and we need research to help us do this.

In hospitals, we are trying to find a treatment for COVID-19 for now and for the future. The best way to do this is to carry out research whilst people are in hospital and under care. 

There are two types of COVID-19 studies that are running in hospitals at the moment, your health care team will discuss these with you.

  • Some involve trying a medicine to see if it works for COVID-19, these are called interventional studies. 
  • Some studies use information taken from things like blood and urine samples or patient records to help us develop knowledge about COVID-19, these are called observational studies.

It’s important to know that if you decide to take part, you won’t need to move beds or to another part of the hospital in order to take part in research. You will continue to be cared for and the study team will work around you and your care.

This short film explains what happens around research within the hospital intensive care unit (ICU).

The following points are important if you are hospitalised with coronavirus and invited to take part in research: 

  • The information about the research study may be read out to you rather than being handed to you in a patient information sheet. Either way, you will be given all the information you need about the study, to help make that choice.
  • It is your choice whether or not to take part.
  • Caring for you is the priority - research happens in addition to receiving the standard care for COVID-19. 
  • Research has to be designed within strict safety standards. 

By volunteering for research, you can help us learn about COVID-19 thereby helping the NHS to provide the best treatment and care for people in future. 

Questions to ask the research team about COVID 19 research

  •  Why is this research being carried out?
  •  What is the purpose of the study?
  •  How will my treatment be different if I take part?
  •  What are the possible benefits for me if I take part in the study?
  •  Are there any risks to me in taking part?
  •  Will I have to do anything extra if I take part?
  •  How will it help other people?
  •  Who is doing the study?

About your treatment

Every research study has its own risks and benefits, and it’s vital to understand these before you give your consent. If you’re taking part in a study for a new treatment, your questions might include:

  • What happens next if I agree to be included in the study?
  • Do I get any additional treatment/care if I take part in the study?
  • Do any of the treatments have possible side effects?
  • If I participate will I have any extra tests/interventions i.e. x-rays?
  • Once I have been discharged, will I need to come back to hospital for any extra appointments/tests?
  • Will I definitely be given the new treatment if I take part? (sometimes researchers will need to compare a new treatment to an existing treatment or no treatment at all)
  • How may the treatment affect me physically and emotionally?
  • Who can I contact if I have a problem? 
  • What plans are in place if anything goes wrong?

About the commitment you make

  • What happens if I decide I don’t want to continue with the study for any reason?
  • How long is the study expected to last? And for how long will I need to take part?
  • What will happen if I stop the study treatment or leave the study before it ends?

About what happens after the study?

If you’re volunteering for a study, you may wish to know what happens after it ends. So, you might want to ask:

  •         How long will it be before the results of the study are known?
  •         How will I find out about the results at the end of the study?

Before you go

Talk to your family and friends while you are able to do so, about your wishes around taking part in research. It's better to speak about it while you’re without symptoms or being cared for at home. This will ensure friends and family know your wishes and can express these for you if you are hospitalised later.

  1. Learn more about what research is about

  2. Find out more about how trials are regulated, approved and funded.

  3. Learn more about consent