Published on: 18 August 2020

A research worker at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has been recognised for her outstanding contribution during the pandemic.

Paula Madgwick was new to her post reviewing research trials for the Trust when COVID-19 struck and she found herself faced with having to quickly get to grips with helping to set up vital trials.   

Head of Research Claire Livingstone successfully nominated Paula for the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria’s (NIHR CRN NENC) Outstanding Research Contribution award.

The special staff recognition scheme, which will run until the end of the year, was set up by the CRN NENC to highlight the exceptional efforts and skills of the local research community - from principal investigators and research nurses to data managers and administration staff - during the pandemic.    

Paula has worked in the research team at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust for almost 11 years in a variety of roles, the latest as Research Governance Facilitator.

She said: “Starting my new role at the beginning of a global pandemic and being responsible for reviewing research trials with a view to the Trust taking part has been both a challenging and positive experience but one which I have thoroughly enjoyed. 

“Over the past few months, I have reviewed many Urgent Public Health Research Studies for COVID-19, helping to get them locally approved to enable the research delivery team to begin the all-important recruitment of patients. I am delighted to have been nominated for this award, which was totally unexpected, but I couldn’t do what I do without the support I get from the whole team and I would like to thank everyone.”

Claire Livingstone said: “Paula has had a very steep learning curve but her effective communication and organisational skills have been key to the efficient set-up of some vitally important COVID-19 studies. Whatever the pressures, she always puts her head down and gets on with the job.

“Often, the focus of research is on the delivery of the trials, however, without the staff behind the scenes research wouldn’t happen. Paula never had the opportunity to learn on the job; she was thrown in at the deep end and learned very quickly. She has gone above and beyond and deserves to be recognised.”

CRN NENC Deputy Chief Operating Officer Chris Speed said: “On behalf of the network, I’d like to congratulate Paula on her award; she is clearly doing a fantastic job. We are keen to capture moments where our research colleagues have gone above and beyond in the delivery of COVID-19 studies. From outstanding contributions to developing studies, supporting or mentoring others, or going that step further behind the scenes, we are asking our local research community to nominate people, like Paula, who should be recognised for their excellence within research.”

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has earned a reputation as a world-class leader in many fields of clinical research. In recent months, it has enrolled patients in several COVID-19 studies to identify treatments and assess outcomes. These include:

  • the RECOVERY trial involving patients in hospital with suspected and confirmed COVID-19, which aims to identify treatments that may help their recovery
  • REMAP-CAP, an international trial focusing on critically ill patients with community-acquired pneumonia to which COVID-19 specific elements were added. 

The Trust is also actively exploring being involved in the COVID-19 vaccine trials that are being implemented in the region.