Research and quality improvement during COVID-19

Prof Nick Bishop, VP for Science and Research, outlines some of the key developments in the College's Research & Quality Improvement Division, recognising ongoing work despite the disruptions to members' schedules. He also discusses research on the effects of COVID-19 on child health and wellbeing.

It seems a very long time indeed since I contributed a blog. So much has happened, at such a pace, that it is difficult to recall life before 23 March. I am sure that for all of you, life has changed significantly as well, particularly if you are having to cope with small children, changes in your rota and working conditions and, potentially, the illness of friends, relations and colleagues.

The Research & Quality Improvement Division at the College is effectively working from home, but the team are still doing what they can to provide you with up-to-date information that is, I hope, both relevant and useful.

In the last eight weeks we have created the workforce dashboard; launched two BPSU surveys on delayed presentations and on the hyperinflammatory syndrome; hosted the output from the NHSE surveillance and quality assurance work; supported the development of the hyperinflammation syndrome case definition; collated and fed back examples of useful new working practices through the QI Central pages; and repeatedly updated the COVID-19 evidence summary pages.

Behind all of that, there’s been a lot of “business as usual“ activity as well. We all really appreciate the fact that despite you, the members, being very disrupted in your normal work, you have still taken time where you can to send back information for the three national audits. The fact that we have such strong baseline information across three different areas has enabled us to be clear about the impact both of staff redeployment on our workforce and of the effect of lockdown on the lives of children with chronic disease.

The principles of Reset, Restore and Recover apply just as much to research and quality improvement as they do to all other aspects of the life and work of the College and its members. For those of you already engaged in either research or quality improvement activities, this period will have been very disruptive and I would imagine you are keen to get back to collecting the data for your projects.

...funding support is also needed to to recover and restore what has been lost in terms of experimental infrastructure

For those who have left clinical academic roles in order to help support colleagues coping with the effects of the pandemic, this will have been a period of significant uncertainty. The College, together with other Royal Colleges, is pressing for a universal extension of out of programme (OOP) time at least equivalent to the time lost; appropriate funding support also needs to be put in place to both recover and restore what has been lost in terms of experimental infrastructure. This latter element may be challenging for some smaller funders – the charity sector has been badly hit by the pandemic, as you know.

There has been a lot of research about the effects of the pandemic on the health of children undertaken by a range of different bodies, and the College's Children & Young People's Engagement team has collated this information to provide an overview of what it is like for children during lockdown – their views and experiences, as well as their concerns and fears. Documenting the effects of the lockdown on children and families in terms of mental health and wellbeing is clearly an area where we can make an important contribution. Much of the work has been undertaken using online and virtual tools – offering us a glimpse of how we might consider undertaking some of our own research in the future too.

Nick's dog, Daisy, on a walk

I’ve been lucky enough to have annual leave this last week - my mental wellbeing has definitely benefitted from the warm weather and the opportunity to enjoy the local environment in the company of Daisy, seen here shortly before getting very wet.