Early in the pandemic concerns arose about the relationship between COVID-19 and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). The CVD-COVID-UK initiative was established and successfully created an electronic health record (EHR) resource allowing whole population research. It also led to the creation of the NHS Digital Trusted Research Environment (TRE) for England, which is paving the way for a multitude of new research projects.

Outstanding achievements

The CVD-COVID-UK project, led by Professor Cathie Sudlow who is Director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Data Science Centre, linked hospital, primary care, mortality and COVID-19 test data with cardiovascular dataset,

The consortium’s work extends across the four nations of the UK. In England alone the team created a linked cohort of 96% of the population (around 54 million people).

The TRE has allowed the secure sharing of datasets with approved researchers addressing issues of public health importance such as the:

  • Effects of CVDs, their risk factors and medications on susceptibility to, and outcomes from, COVID-19.
  • Direct impact of COVID infection on acute cardiovascular complications and longer-term risk.
  • Indirect impact of the pandemic, and the response to it, on the presentation, diagnosis, management and outcomes of heart and circulatory diseases.

The initiative was named as one of seven UK national COVID-19 flagship projects.

The team

CVD-COVID-UK is founded on team science. It prides itself on being inclusive, multi-disciplinary, open and transparent. Much of the work relied on the energy of the core team. But the consortium has expanded rapidly and has over 180 members from 41 organisations throughout the UK – ranging from PhD students to senior scientists.

Prof. Cathie Sudlow said:

“This big community of individuals has been incredibly important. They’ve brought people with all sorts of skill sets, they’ve also helped us to understand what their needs are. So we’ve learned very quickly.”

The project is committed to Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE), with four lay members (including service users) providing significant input and feedback.

This paper was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Read the full paper

Further information


The CVD-COVID-UK project involves over a dozen partners and includes the custodians of all the major national generic and cardiovascular health datasets.

Next steps

It rapidly became clear that the resource developed by the consortium could have many valuable applications. To realise its potential the team has recently carried out huge improvements to the range of linked data, data quality, provision of collaborative space and the availability of programming tools.

There are now 16 approved projects up and running.

It has recently played an important role in the study of blood clotting after COVID-19 vaccination, and providing reliable information to decision-makers about any associated risks.

Open science

The consortium makes results, protocols and code freely and publicly available to the global research community for re-use. All participants also have to agree to a set of principles, including the five safes.

HDR UK affiliation

The BHF Data Science Centre is a partnership between HDR UK and the BHF and sits within HDR UK.