Effect of underlying health conditions on mortality rates during the COVID-19 pandemic

With an urgent need to understand who is most at risk and how to limit its impact, researchers at UCL, University College London NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge (including members of HDR UK London and HDR UK Cambridge) were able to estimate the excess number of deaths over one year using different COVID-19 incidence scenarios that took into account age, sex and underlying health conditions – all through linking primary and secondary care electronic health records from England.

The team’s prototype online risk calculator – called OurRisk.CoV – can help researchers and policymakers gain a better understanding and take steps to help those most at risk. This story has been covered by national news outlets including the Guardian.

See how this tool can make a difference

Looking at why Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes

With at least five different studies across the HDR UK community looking into this, and coverage in national and international news, the results are growing but contradictory insights are emerging with no clear understanding of observed patterns at the moment.

To move this forward, further analysis will be needed to better understand variances in observations and will likely require national and more detailed regional and NHS data resources.

Find out more in our latest weekly report to SAGE

Impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and cancer services

HDR UK researchers have been analysing weekly health data from major cancer centres in the UK over recent weeks to determine the effect of the COVID-19 emergency on early cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment as well as the potential excess mortality in patients with cancer.

With a 76% average decrease in urgent referrals from GPs for people with suspected cancers and a 60% average decrease in chemotherapy appointments for cancer patients compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, the “study highlights the value of bringing together data from multiple sources to enable researchers, health systems and policy makers to improve cancer management for our patients, both during and after this pandemic”, Dr Charlie Davie (DATA-CAN Hub Director).

See what this means for people with cancer and its services


Tweet of the Week

Each week, we’ll be sharing a ‘Tweet of the Week’ which could highlight a new piece of research, a new area of work or an interesting blog.

This week goes to The BMJ who shared a recent blog which was co-authored by Professor Alastair Denniston, Director of INSIGHT, the HDR UK Health Data Research Hub for Eye Health. The fascinating blog explores how COVID-19 could be accelerating a transformation in eye health.

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Our Latest Report

We recognise the need for COVID-19 research questions to be rapidly answered to guide national (and international) decision making. To help achieve this we’ve teamed up with a wide range of organisations to provide a process to streamline and prioritise the most important health data research questions, an approach to link data and provide access to secure analytical environments for researchers to answer these questions to improve understanding and treatment of coronavirus.

With this in mind, we provide a weekly report to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on the most important health data research questions to prioritise.

Read our latest report


More information and tools

  1. Submit your research question or project – we are calling on anyone with a research question for COVID-19 that requires health data to share your ideas via our online form.
    Questions will be shared in our HDR UK COVID-19 Knowledge + Skills Matchmaker. We prioritise all of the questions using a transparent and objective process to identify the questions that most urgently need to access to data. Progress of the prioritised questions is reported weekly to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
  2. HDR UK GitHub repository – The HDR UK community is developing computer-based tools and methodologies to analyse and handle health data, including those that can help overcome the COVID-19 challenge. These are all shared in a central repository, which is open to the public, so that we can all learn from each other and build on each other’s work. They are shared in HDR UK’s area of GitHub.
  3. COVID-19 Slack channels – researchers and innovators looking to collaborate to use health data to address the pandemic can apply to join our dedicated Slack channels. Complete the form to register your interest in joining here.
  4. Take a look at our Skills + Knowledge Matchmaker to see a full list of COVID-19 ongoing projects, or visit COVID-19 page to see the latest version of HDR UK’s strategy to support efforts to tackle the pandemic.