'Many stroke studies were paused or cancelled to prioritise research directly related to Covid-19."
Professor Audrey Bowen, from the University of Manchester, is funded by the Stroke Association to carry out research into strategies for coping with cognitive difficulties after stroke. Like many researchers across the UK, Professor Bowen's work has been affected by the pandemic.
'Our researchers had to stop visiting stroke survivors in their homes but have been able to conduct some research assessments by telephone or postal questionnaires. We also struggled to contact collaborating NHS therapists as they were pulled back to frontline duties and moved between NHS sites.
'Research is a collaborative exercise and so working separately from our homes for five months affects the teamwork necessary for a good study. However, we are communicating through Zoom group video calls, including with the stroke survivors who advise us on our studies. Some of our research team have considerable caring responsibilities and have experienced illness. Things like this cost current research projects greatly in terms of time and outputs, and delays the development of future grant applications.'
Professor Bowen is worried about the impact of the pandemic on the future of stroke research.
'Many stroke studies were paused or cancelled to prioritise research directly related to Covid-19. This is a huge set-back for stroke research. As many charities and other public research funders experience falls in income, there is even less money available for stroke research and for training future researchers. This endangers early career researchers the most, as they are employed on fixed-term contracts and require external funding. Furthermore, undergraduate students cannot conduct NHS stroke research projects this year due to national ethics restrictions. This reduces research awareness in future cohorts of health professionals and halts the flow of the next generation of stroke researchers.'