In a first of its kind collaboration, research staff from two Welsh Hospitals came together in 2017 to plan the joint delivery of a complex clinical trial for cancer patients. Their efforts have paid off for Welsh patients, and have resulted in being shortlisted for a prestigious Nursing Times award.
The challenges of working across two NHS organisations were overcome by the drive and dedication of both teams to provide safe, seamless care so that patients in Wales could access a new immunotherapy treatment. The outcome of the trial is not yet known, but feedback from the patients indicates that the collaboration itself was a huge success, providing a blueprint for future trials that previously couldn’t have been run in Wales.
The clinical research facility at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), and the Clinical Trials Unit at Velindre Cancer Centre had been working together to promote collaboration and cross-site working for 18 months. In this time, staff had spent time in both departments receiving training and support. The clinical trials being delivered by both teams were becoming more complex, and the research teams were able to support each other to manage this while acting separately as two individual sites. In 2016, a new cellular therapy trial for patients with cancer was presented to the research team at Velindre. This involved specialist procedures that could only be carried out in the Haematology department at UHW, but the patients were under the care of Velindre Cancer Centre. The research unit in Velindre was ideal for patients to be seen before treatment started and as follow up, the treatment itself was potentially very risky and needed to be given in a purpose built research facility by trained staff. This was also only available at UHW. Staff from both organisations met with the support of the Wales Cancer Research Centre to discuss how they could work together to deliver the trial.
The nursing teams worked together to decide which visits would be carried out at each site. They also planned a full orientation for patients to ensure they knew who was responsible for their care. The nurses also looked at how to make documentation accessible. Approval was given by the trial sponsor to create a combined study document that could be duplicated and filed at both sites.
The first patient was recruited to the trial towards the end of 2017. The specialist team at UHW were able to retrieve enough cells for the patient to have a full course of six infusions. These were delivered by the research team in the clinical research facility at UHW, and visits between treatments and follow up were taken over by the research team at Velindre Cancer Centre. The results of the trial itself are not yet known, as it is still ongoing. The feedback from the patient and their family was very uplifting. They described the care as seamless, as though both sites were one team. They thanked everyone involved for working together to make it possible, as without this trial there wouldn’t have been any other options available to them.
The most important outcome was that patients were able to access a new treatment as a result of this collaborative project. The feedback received reiterated to all involved that patients are at the centre of what we do.
The team will present their collaboration at an NIHR Nursing Times Awards 2018 Nominee Celebration Lunch on the 31st of October.