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A series of commissioned articles in the BMJ are analysing the successes and failures of the pandemic response in England ahead of the Covid-19 inquiry. The BRACE Rapid Evaluation Centre’s Manni Sidhu has published an article with academic colleagues who worked with policy makers, research funders, clinicians and health service providers involved in the frontline of adapting, supporting and providing care during the Covid-19 pandemic. The article examines how communities of practice developed and shared knowledge about Covid-19 and how the process could be more effective through rapid knowledge generation.

They report that clinicians and researchers came together organically to develop learning networks, in the absence of national or regional coordination. At the onset of the pandemic sharing of evidence was reliant on personal relationships and individual leadership but was eventually supported by regional and national NHS systems to facilitate evaluation. The article considers whether more could have been done earlier to support communal learning and how the networks formed can be embedded to improve implementation of research both routinely and in future pandemics.

The analysis article outlines four key messages about communities of practice: 1) The paucity of evidence during the early phase of the pandemic provided an opportunity for real time learning driven by communities of practice; 2) learning from these communities led to clinical and service innovation; 3) a mix of opportune and strategic support from regional and national bodies in England created clinical learning networks, which adopted and spread change rapidly; and 4) Health systems should develop learning networks to coordinate resources to innovate, evaluate, and implement emerging best practice for both pandemic and non-pandemic time.

The article also gives several questions for the Covid-19 inquiry to consider.

The full (open access) article can be found at Learning networks in the pandemic: mobilising evidence for improvement | The BMJ