Two years on from the first national lockdown we are in a far better position to understand, help prevent and treat Covid thanks to the outstanding and ground-breaking efforts of scientists and researchers from around the world.
Above: members of the team (left to right) Mark Baker, Sharon Storton, Marie Williams, Debra Evans
Amongst those who have given us all hope that we can learn to live with Covid is Swansea Bay’s research and delivery team.
Its work has now been recognised by a nomination for a St David Award for its ‘significant’ role in combating the virus.
The team has been included in the Innovation, Science and Technology category of the awards, which recognise the extraordinary achievements of people from across Wales.
The nominees were put forward by the public, with the finalists and winners selected by the First Minister and his advisers.
Swansea Bay’s small team of research nurses, research officers and research assistants, based across the health board, worked together to support clinical teams with research trials to help determine effective lifesaving treatments, many of which have shown to be vital in the fight against Covid-19.
The team also supported and recruited patients into other studies, which have helped to understand the long-term health outcomes for patients with Covid 19.
Elaine Brinkworth, research nurse team leader, praised the “tenacity and resilience” of the team.
She said: “When we found out we had been shortlisted for a St David’s Award, we were absolutely thrilled and so grateful that the team’s hard work had been recognised.
“The team has done everything that has been asked of them. They have been adaptable and uncomplaining throughout some of the most chaotic moments of the last two years.
“Although our team has been shortlisted for the award, it is important to remember that the delivery of a clinical trial requires a multi-disciplinary team approach.
“We would like to thank all the clinicians and clinical areas that have supported our studies, along with pharmacy and all other supporting departments.
“Most importantly we would like to thank the patients of Swansea Bay University Health Board, who have either considered or participated in a clinical trial. Without the patients’ involvement none of the above would have been possible.”
The Welsh Government said that, during the pandemic, the team focussed on urgent public health trials as a priority.
Evidence from these trials ultimately shaped the advice provided by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to UK governments.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The team adapted to the rapid pace of change to ensure that research continued during such a pressured time for health boards.
“Their studies provided an evidence base for the discovery of new treatment options, which increased the survival rate of Covid-19 patients as a result.
“Additional treatment options were made available for patients via their participation in various research trials and some of these treatments have since become standard of care.
“They also contributed to the GenOMICC trial, which provided important genetic evidence – identifying the increased risk to BAME members of the population early on in the pandemic.
“Swansea Bay was amongst the top three recruiting sites in UK for this study.
“The dedication of the team made a significant contribution to the health and care of citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some excellent results, and the support they have consistently demonstrated towards each other has been exemplary.”
The research team works closely Health and Care Research Wales eco-system and receives funding from Welsh Government.
Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales said: “These past two years have been extremely challenging for all research teams across Wales who have contributed to the urgent public health studies.
“The team at Swansea are small but mighty and everyone at Health and Care Research Wales is so proud of their nomination.
“Every member of the team has gone, and continues to go, above and beyond and regardless of the outcome I’m so pleased their hard work has been recognised nationally.”
Emma Woollett, Chair of Swansea Bay, said: “I am delighted that our Swansea Bay team of researchers has been nominated, the only health board team to have done so. I wish them all success at the ceremony in April.”
Swansea Bay CEO, Mark Hackett, said: “I am really pleased to see this nomination
“Research and development is an important part of the responsibilities of the health board and we see this as creating and sustaining us as an organisation that learns, adapts and develops new ways of delivering care to patients.”
The 9th St David Awards Ceremony will be held at the Royal College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, on Thursday evening, 7th April, with all finalists being honoured on the night and the winners announced.