STIMULATE-ICP is conducting the largest trial for long COVID to date and aims to improve diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.
A major new consortium of over 30 researchers, health professionals, patients and industry partners from over 30 organisations, led by University College London Hospitals NHS Trust and University College London will conduct the largest clinical study of long COVID to date over two years. As countries around the world struggle to cope and recover from successive waves of the pandemic, this NIHR-funded research programme will inform medium- and longer-term policy and health system responses.
STIMULATE-ICP (Symptoms, Trajectory, Inequalities and Management: Understanding Long-COVID to Address and Transform Existing Integrated Care Pathways) will deliver knowledge to clinicians and scientists, evidence to policymakers, and improved care to patients while collecting real-world data at scale. The team spans a wide range of relevant clinical and academic disciplines including primary care and specialist services, epidemiology, mental health and health economics.
The study started in August 2021 and aims to start recruiting patients in February 2022.
- The Challenge
Two million people in the UK are estimated to have had persistent symptoms for more than 12 weeks following initial coronavirus infection, with far-reaching impact on patients, healthcare and the economy. Over 80 long COVID clinics have been established around England but we need to better understand, diagnose and treat this new disease. Inequalities in access to and provision of long COVID care have already become apparent.
Professor Amitava Banerjee, Professor of Clinical Data Science, Consultant Cardiologist at UCL Institute of Health Informatics, and Chief Investigator said:
““Long COVID is challenging the NHS and healthcare systems around the world, which have had to deal with the acute consequences of coronavirus over the last 18 months.”
- The Solution
To improve recovery, the team will work out what long COVID is, how to diagnose it and how to manage it. They will interview patients and health professionals and analyse data from NHS records, informing our understanding of patterns of long COVID and the outcomes of current clinical practice.
Dr Melissa Heightman, UCLH Post-Covid clinical lead, Consultant in Integrated Respiratory Medicine, and Co-Chief Investigator, said: “We established our post-COVID clinic in London in May 2020 during the peak of the first wave, ‘building the plane while we were flying it’ and based in the hospital through necessity. Individuals with long COVID need integrated services, working across traditional healthcare boundaries to best meet their complex care and rehabilitation needs. The aim will be to deliver timely high-quality care close to peoples’ homes with community-based diagnostics but access to specialist input when needed."
A trial, coordinated by the University of Central Lancashire, will recruit over 4,500 people with long-COVID, starting with six sites in Hull, Derby, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Exeter. As well as evaluating current care, the study will include evaluation of community-based, comprehensive MRI scan (using CoverscanTM developed by Perspectum) and enhanced rehabilitation (Living with COVID RecoveryTM developed by Living With), to inform a new integrated care pathway for people with long COVID. Within this study, another trial will test different drugs to measure the effects of three months of treatment on symptoms, mental health, return to work and other important outcomes.