University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) is part of a new national trial platform, launched towards the end of 2022, which aims to use pandemic lessons to help quickly find effective treatments for people hospitalised with severe flu.

Currently there is no clear evidence about how best to treat severe cases of flu and although many people with flu get better on their own without needing hospital treatment, it can make some people seriously ill and even be life threatening. Health officials and NHS leaders have warned 60,000 people could die this year from flu.

The £2.9 million REMAP-CAP trial will seek to recruit children and adults hospitalised with severe flu from 150 hospitals across the UK over the next two years. The trial is designed to provide answers quickly by using a robust yet rapid approach to test multiple treatments at the same time in thousands of people.

As well as Derriford Hospital at UHP, the following hospitals in the South West will be running the study: Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton; Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro; Royal Devon University Hospital in Exeter; and Torbay Hospital.

The trial will be led by researchers and clinicians from Imperial College London and the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in collaboration with other national experts and is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), and supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula.

This is the first time a trial of this kind will be used for flu. The REMAP-CAP trial was originally set up to tackle pandemics. It is exactly two years since REMAP-CAP showed in COVID-19 how reducing inflammation with the drug tocilizumab can save lives in severely ill patients.

Professor Michael Gibbons, Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said: “Flu is a known and deadly virus; how best to treat it is unknown. The REMAP-CAP trial is hugely important. Using experience and knowledge gained from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will help us find the answers to what we should, and should not be using, to save the lives of people who develop flu.”

The trial will be open to adults, children, and babies over the age of one month who are hospitalised with severe flu. Children and babies will receive lower treatment doses than adults.

The researchers will study how effective the treatments are at reducing deaths from flu and stopping patients needing intensive care.

To help them to determine which treatments provide the best use of NHS resources, the researchers will also monitor whether the treatments reduce severe symptoms, stop people needing breathing support, and shorten the amount of time people stay in hospital or intensive care. The researchers will also measure quality of life and disability after recovery.