What can 57 million adult National Health Service (NHS) records tell us about Covid-19 in the UK?

The Institute of Health Informatics studied 57 million UK NHS electronic records to see the effects of the Covid-19 virus on people including the spread and likely spread.

The two main waves and consequences of the Covid-19 virus were shown by linking eight NHS datasets, 57million electronic health records of people in England between 23rd January 2020 and 30th November 2021.

Read on to learn how sharing health data can save lives 

Why was this work needed?

The researchers were able to use ongoing national level data to support decision and policy making. This meant that by linking the collected data to the possible pathway of the Covid-19 virus, plans were able to be put in place to identify and prioritise those people who were more likely to be affected if they caught the Covid-19 virus and the services they may have required..

What did research find?

The researchers identified how infection rates, treatments and outcomes differed by demographic patient groups.

In addition they created a method for data analysis that makes it possible to provide vital insights on the impact and spread of this pandemic, and potentially future pandemics as well, not only in the UK but also in other countries.

What is the impact on patients?

This research demonstrates that it is possible to use health data to identify and prioritise those people who are more likely to be affected if they catch the coronavirus, and the health services they may require.

Providing a method of data analysis could offer the potential of similar patient benefits much more quickly in any future pandemics.

What data was used?

Data was collected from COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, primary and secondary care records, and death registrations.

Special mathematical tests were applied to the data to examine the link between

1. Demographics – age, income, education etc.
2. Frequency of co-morbidities (other illnesses)
3. The effects of the vaccination

and different stages of disease severity

1. Positive SARS-CoV-2 Test
Primary care diagnosis
Hospital admission
4. Ventilation support
5. Death 

This made sure the research findings were used at the time it was done and could be applied to future Covid-19 cases.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

This research was conducted by researchers on behalf of the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing COVID-19 National Core Study and the CVD-COVID-UK/COVID-IMPACT Consortium. Funding was from the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre led by Health Data Research UK.

This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the health professionals as part of the care and support provided.