A UK-wide study is being launched to reduce the number of people who die in the months following a stay in hospital with Covid-19. The clinical trial named ‘HEAL-COVID’ also aims to cut the number of patients being readmitted to hospital with complications as a result of having Covid.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that 29% of patients who are hospitalised due to Covid-19 are readmitted within six months, and more than 12% die within the same period.

‘HEAL-COVID’ stands for Helping to Alleviate the Longer-term consequences of Covid-19 and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. It will test a number of safe, existing drugs on patients across the UK in order to find effective treatments.

Dr Charlotte Summers, Study Lead and Intensive Care Specialist

“Having survived the trauma of being hospitalised with Covid-19, far too many patients find themselves back in hospital with new or long term complications. “Unfortunately, many go on to die in the months after being discharged. This trial is the first of its kind to look at what drugs we could use to reduce the devastating impact on patients.’

Dr Charlotte Summers, Study Lead, the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital,

The trial is being led by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) and University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre (University of Liverpool) and Aparito Limited.

HEAL-COVID will enrol patients when they are discharged from hospital, following their first admission for Covid-19. They will be randomised and given one of two drugs – apixaban and atorvastatin – and their progress tracked. It’s hoped a third drug will be introduced to the trial on the recommendation of the UK COVID Therapeutic Advisory Panel (UK-CTAP) in the coming weeks.

Professor Carrol Gamble, Director of Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre

“This is an exciting opportunity to help people in the post-acute phase of Covid-19. The trial is designed to allow us to remove or add-in treatment options in response to patient outcomes. Every effort has been made design the trial to minimise burden on NHS staff and patients and represents a true team approach to science.”

Professor Carrol Gamble, Director of the Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre

“The NHS led the world in research identifying dexamethasone as the first treatment in the world for Covid-19 and this latest trial could help discover new treatments for the after-effects of Covid, helping to rapidly get world-leading therapies to our patients. “Long Covid can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life, which is exactly why in addition to funding research into the condition, the NHS has invested millions into opening dozens of dedicated clinics to help people get back to good health.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director

– ENDS –


Hospital readmissions and deaths
Latest figures show more than 450,000 people have been admitted to UK hospitals with Covid-19.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics tracked the outcomes of 47,780 people who were discharged after a hospital admission for Covid-19.  Analysis of the data found:

  • Half the participants were of working age (average age was 64.5 years)
  • 29.3% of them were readmitted to hospital within about 6 months
  • 12.3% died within about 6 months of hospital discharge

(Epidemiology of post-COVID syndrome following hospitalisation with coronavirus: a retrospective cohort study; Ayoubkhani D, Kamlesh Khunti, Nafilyan V, Maddox T, Humberstone B, Diamond I, Banerjee A. medRxiv 2021.01.15.21249885; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.15.21249885)

This analysis is reflected in data from other health systems, such as the United States (Donnelly JP et al, Readmission and Death After Initial Hospital Discharge Among Patients With Covid-19 in a Large Multihospital System, JAMA 2021; 325:304-6).

The treatments
Apixaban is an oral anticoagulant drug that is used to reduce the risk of blood clots forming. Atorvastatin is a widely used lipid lowering drug (‘a statin’) that also acts on other mechanisms of disease that are thought to be important in Covid-19.

The Innovative technology needed to monitor patients once they have been discharged will be provided by Aparito Limited. Aparito provides innovative, patient-centric drug development solutions, integrating specialist clinical and regulatory knowledge with the technology to gather highly relevant patient-generated data outside of the hospital setting, to streamline the drug development process.

Their software platform Atom5™ is disease agnostic, multi-lingual and highly configurable. Patients access a study-specific app on their own smartphone/tablet (iOS or Android) which alert patients when it’s time to answer Patient Reported Outcomes according to the study protocol.

Contact Information
For interviews with Dr Charlotte Summers contact Georgie Bevan in the CUH Press Office at georgie.bevan@addenbrookes.nhs.uk +44 (0) 7711 017464

B-roll footage of the trial drugs is available on request from Georgie Bevan

For interviews with Professor Carrol Gamble and information about the Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre contact Jenny Morgan in the University of Liverpool Press Office at J.L.Morgan@liverpool.ac.uk +44 (0) 7775 547 589

About Cambridge University Hospitals

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) is one of the largest and best known trusts in the country, delivering high-quality patient care through Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals. CUH is a leading national centre for specialist treatment for rare or complex conditions and a university teaching hospital with a worldwide reputation.
CUH is a key partner in Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP), one of only six academic health science centres in the UK, and is at the heart of the development of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), which brings together on one site world-class biomedical research, patient care and education. As part of the Campus development, Papworth Hospital has created a bespoke, purpose-built hospital, and AstraZeneca is building a new global R&D centre and corporate headquarters. The Campus is one of the Government’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive biomedical research centres.

CUH Communications Department
Tel: 07711 017464 or 07517 133031
Email: press@addenbrookes.nhs.uk
More about Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) visit: http://www.cuh.org.uk/

About University of Cambridge
The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 110 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize.

Founded in 1209, the University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Cambridge is a global university. Its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Asia, Africa and America.

The University sits at the heart of the ‘Cambridge cluster’, which employs more than 61,000 people and has in excess of £15 billion in turnover generated annually by the 5,000 knowledge-intensive firms in and around the city. The city publishes 316 patents per 100,000 residents. www.cam.ac.uk

About Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre
The Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre (LCTC.org.uk) is a leading UK clinical trials unit. We are based in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool, a member of the Liverpool Health Partners. We work with the NHS and commercial partners, patients and the public to contribute to the identification and evaluation of new and repurposed treatments and devices.