Primary Care News

Biobank GP data to be made available to scientists to tackle COVID-19

Data from 500,000 UK Biobank participants is to be made available to support scientists tackle COVID-19.

Primary care data containing COVID-19 tests and confirmed cases from a dataset of over 503,000 consented participants will be extracted on a monthly basis for COVID-19 research purposes.

The programme is being provided through Public Health England and supported by GP system suppliers EMIS Health and TPP.

In addition it’s expected hospital episodes (HES) data, death data on a monthly basis and intensive care (ICNARC) data will be included for researchers.

Professor Russ Altman of Stanford University, USA, and a UK Biobank approved researcher, commented “I think there is an unprecedented opportunity to study how clinical and genetic factors affect the spread and outcome of this disease. Proper characterisation of these factors could greatly help the health care system with managing cases from triage to treatment.​”

Data will also be available from UK biobank to:

  • Allow the relevance of various genetic and non-genetic factors to severity and outcome to be assessed in different age groups
  • Provide a much clearer analysis of the prevalence and death rate in the UK
  • Allow for the assessment of the impact of different diseases on the outcome of COVID-19, as well as the impact of medications being taken at the time the disease develops
  • Provide more comprehensive information on the course of the disease

The data is anonymised and could be used by more than 14,000 researchers, including leaders in genetics and drug development.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser “It’s vital we learn as much as possible about the who, where and the when of the infection, both for the short and the longer term.”

“This new research will tell us about key risk factors and help us continue to manage the outbreak in an evidence-based way.”​

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners “GPs and their teams are at the sharp end of this current crisis. This important initiative could provide us with valuable insight into how the disease spreads and who is most vulnerable.”