Coronavirus-related NHS research projects have been fast-tracked by the regulator, with approval times slashed from 60 days to just 24 hours amid an unprecedented number of applications.

More than 350 studies into Covid-19 have been approved by the Health Research Authority (HRA) since mid-March, among them, 52 deemed urgent public health studies, funded by Government, which together have recruited almost 130,000 patients.

While the larger drug trial and treatment studies aim to develop diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines, others focus on behavioural or observational studies.

They include topics as diverse as the consequences of neonatal infection, the effect of social isolation on Parkinson’s Disease patients and the mental health impact on NHS staff.

Juliet Tizzard, the director of policy at the HRA, said the pandemic had highlighted the crucial role such research played in saving lives.

“Research is often seen as a bit of a sideshow to clinical care done by clever academics,” she said. “I think that what’s been shown here is that research is central to the way that care is provided with Covid-19.”

She said the study sites that had recruited patients most successfully were those where medics had presented the research as “part of the way they were managing the disease”. “That’s how research should be seen at all times but sadly isn’t,” she added.

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