Shaping care home COVID-19 testing policy: a protocol for a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial of asymptomatic testing compared with standard care in care home staff (VIVALDI-CT)

Natalie Adams, Oliver Stirrup, James Blackstone, Maria Krutikov, Jackie A. Cassell, Dorina Cadar, Catherine Henderson, Martin Knapp, Lara Goscé, Ruth Leiser, Martyn Regan, Iona Cullen-Stephenson, Robert Fenner, Arpana Verma, Adam Gordon, Susan Hopkins, Andrew Copas, Nick Freemantle, Paul Flowers, Laura Shallcross

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Abstract

Introduction
Care home residents have experienced significant morbidity, mortality and disruption following outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2. Regular SARS-CoV-2 testing of care home staff was introduced to reduce transmission of infection, but it is unclear whether this remains beneficial. This trial aims to investigate whether use of regular asymptomatic staff testing, alongside funding to reimburse sick pay for those who test positive and meet costs of employing agency staff, is a feasible and effective strategy to reduce COVID-19 impact in care homes.

Methods and analysis
The VIVALDI-Clinical Trial is a multicentre, open-label, cluster randomised controlled, phase III/IV superiority trial in up to 280 residential and/or nursing homes in England providing care to adults aged >65 years. All regular and agency staff will be enrolled, excepting those who opt out. Homes will be randomised to the intervention arm (twice weekly asymptomatic staff testing for SARS-CoV-2) or the control arm (current national testing guidance). Staff who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 will self-isolate and receive sick pay. Care providers will be reimbursed for costs associated with employing temporary staff to backfill for absence arising directly from the trial.

The trial will be delivered by a multidisciplinary research team through a series of five work packages.

The primary outcome is the incidence of COVID-19-related hospital admissions in residents. Secondary outcomes include the number and duration of outbreaks and home closures. Health economic and modelling analyses will investigate the cost-effectiveness and cost consequences of the testing intervention. A process evaluation using qualitative interviews will be conducted to understand intervention roll out and identify areas for optimisation to inform future intervention scale-up, should the testing approach prove effective and cost-effective. Stakeholder engagement will be undertaken to enable the sector to plan for results and their implications and to coproduce recommendations on the use of testing for policy-makers.

Ethics and dissemination
The study has been approved by the London—Bromley Research Ethics Committee (reference number 22/LO/0846) and the Health Research Authority (22/CAG/0165). The results of the trial will be disseminated regardless of the direction of effect. The publication of the results will comply with a trial-specific publication policy and will include submission to open access journals. A lay summary of the results will also be produced to disseminate the results to participants.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere076210
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ open
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • epidemiology
  • public health
  • care homes

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