COVID-19: A message from the BMJ Quality & Safety editorial team

These are extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating dramatic and daily evolving changes with profound impacts on people’s lives worldwide. Our readers, authors, and reviewers – and their families, friends, and colleagues – confront challenges and uncertainties almost unimaginable just a short time ago.

Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is requiring rapid health system change on a scale rarely seen before.  The kind of research and commentary our journal publishes directly relates to many of these efforts. We have always published excellent work on infection control, teamwork, resilience, implementing and iteratively refining new ways of delivering care, and many other highly relevant topics. Work started well before the crisis can take on new and urgent usefulness in this new context.

Just as important as providing evidence for dealing with the here-and-now challenges of the pandemic will be producing learning from the crisis. Some of the changes introduced now may restructure healthcare forever. Remote consultations and other forms of virtual care represent just one example of an approach many have sought for years to see implemented, and has now been introduced virtually overnight. But not all change is good. In a time of unprecedented innovation, generating knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why will have a key role both in the short-term and for long-term change. The knock-on effects for the care of large numbers of non-COVID patients will also be an enormously valuable focus of study.

The crisis and the changes associated with it will likely have a profound effect on our own field. We may emerge with new thinking about how to study quality and safety and how to undertake improvement work.

Given these imperatives, maintaining the journal’s success through this challenging time is a key priority for us and the wider practice, policy and academic communities. The editorial team has already put a lot of thought into how to achieve this goal and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.

First, we know that authors and reviewers alike (and editors too!) will be under increased strain during the crisis, and we want to be as supportive as possible. We will accommodate requests for extensions from reviewers and authors alike. We ask that invited reviewers let us know as quickly as they can if they will not be able to help, and where possible suggest alternatives. Decision times will sometimes take longer than normal, and we hope we can count on the patience of our authors.

Second, we are experiencing an increasing volume of COVID-19 submissions. Where they meet our threshold for quality and timeliness, we have been seeking expedited review. As the number of these submissions grows, obtaining rapid review may become more difficult. We will prioritise those submissions most likely to add value by being of direct immediate value, or those that will produce enduring lessons.

Third, we recognise the impact of the crisis on the research enterprise. Learning about the crisis itself must somehow be produced during a period when many traditional research methods and QI techniques may be especially difficult to deploy. We also appreciate that many research projects and improvement efforts will encounter disruptions, and that one of the impacts of COVID-19 will consist of its confounding effects in many studies. Again, we recognise these realities and we will accommodate authors’ efforts to acknowledge such challenges in their manuscripts.

Most of all we hope you, your families, your colleagues and your communities remain safe and well.