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Solent NHS Trust Estates Team build Vaccine Research hub for Hampshire

"What I saw today genuinely moved me - the space is fantastic and will make a huge difference to the team and our participants."

In November 2020, our very own Solent Estates team completed the ‘build’ of the Hampshire Vaccine Research Hub. They both found and negotiated access to space, and built the hub in the Royal South Hants hospital in approximately three months, offering their time and skills on top of the day job.

This all started with a tentative email from Dr Sarah Williams (Associate Director for Research) to Mark Young (Head of Estates at Solent) back in the summer: ‘any chance you can help us find some space for a Wessex Research hub? Oh, and it needs be around 1000square meters!’ Mark didn’t hesitate to say yes and within weeks had found the space, and built a new clinical research facility. To work in an organisation with teams so supportive of research in such practical terms is incredible - wee couldn’t be prouder or more grateful.

The Estates Team, led by Mark and the project lead, Mark Maffey, have worked closely with the clinical research team (and particularly the Matron, Lisa Berry) at University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust to create a secure space suitable for high throughput of volunteers on the trials. They have taken over the old canteen space and turned it into a light and safe area for research. Not only has this involved structural work, but also electrical and cooling systems to house specialist freezers for storage of the trial vaccines, banks of charging units for nearly 100 laptops, specialist waste disposal and space for a pharmacy team.

The Vaccine Research team had been in temporary accommodation at the University of Southampton, but they now have permanent space to use and the first trial in the new hub opened on the 9th November. The Solent Research Team are now working alongside colleagues from UHS and other partners to deliver numerous vaccine trials over the next 12-18 months.

Lisa Berry, Research Matron, was the first to see the finished site and wrote: "I visited the RSH this afternoon and am astonished at the speed, scope and quality of the work completed! The transformation from dark and cluttered industrial kitchen and disused cafeteria to a bright, clinical space is astounding – especially given the time constraints.

When I first visited, some areas had no ceilings and needed real imagination to envisage how it could look. What I saw today genuinely moved me - the space is fantastic and will make a huge difference to the team and our participants. Mark, Geoff and their teams must have worked tirelessly to get the space set up."

All vaccine trials across the Wessex region (which covers Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight and south Wiltshire) are being taken forward by the Wessex COVID-19 Vaccine Hub, a collaboration of local NHS providers, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Research teams will deliver trials in a two-centre initiative, using the RSH in Southampton and the Dorset Research Hub at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

The Chief Investigator is Prof Saul Faust, University of Southampton. If you’d like to take part in the vaccine trials, more information about the vaccine trials can be found on the NIHR website.


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