Media Release

QEH is first hospital to open national drug trial to prevent deaths after COVID-19 patients leave hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn (QEH) has become the first NHS Trust to start a UK-wide study to reduce the number of people who die in the months following a stay in hospital with COVID-19.

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.

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-19.

Data from the Office for National Statistics 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). It will test a number of safe, existing drugs on patients across the UK in order to find effective treatments.  

The QEH study team 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 already licensed for other uses – apixaban (an anticoagulant) and atorvastatin (a statin) – 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 in the coming weeks.

QEH currently has 7 patients with COVID-19 staying in the hospital. The trial is currently due to remain open until January 2024, therefore future patients with the virus who are discharged following acute recovery could be offered the opportunity to take part in it.

Dr Riyam Al-Sammarraie, Clinical Fellow at QEH, is overseeing the roll out of the study at the Trust. Dr Al-Sammarraie said: “We’re honoured to be the first site to be able to open this important trial. Only through research do we have an opportunity to find the answers to the questions we have about COVID-19, including what happens beyond the initial recovery stage.”

Dr Frankie Swords, Medical Director at QEH, said: “Research is absolutely critical to improving patient care. At QEH we are determined to offer every patient we can the chance to join a relevant research study, and last year we beat our research target, enrolling more than 2,000 patients to national studies, including more than 1,300 to COVID-19 related studies. HEAL-COVID is an incredibly important national study, and we are delighted to be leading the way with this.”

Dr Charlotte Summers, Study Lead at the University of Cambridge and Critical Care Lead for the NIHR Clinical Research Network Eastern, said: “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.”

The study is set to open at more NHS trusts around the country over the coming months. The trial is being led by CUHFT and University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Liverpool, and Aparito Limited. 

For more information about HEAL-COVID visit More information about taking part in other research can be found at