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Three NDPH projects have been identified by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) in a list of 12 things we’ve learned about COVID-19 from health data research. 

Six months on from the start of the first UK lockdown, Health Data Research UK is highlighting the vital role that the UK’s health data research community has played in responding to COVID-19, and the importance of including all groups in society as the pandemic continues. 

Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) and the broader health data community have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, providing critical insights to support policymakers and the NHS. 

The COVID-19 response has demonstrated the absolute necessity for timely, secure access to health data across all aspects of the disease from informing public policy to understanding the impacts on health and society, mapping the spread of the virus and testing new treatments, as well as revealing the knock-on effects of the pandemic on care for other conditions such as cancer and heart disease.  

Many of the datasets underpinning these findings are now discoverable through the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway. This is a new online portal allowing researchers to find detailed information about nearly 500 datasets held by organisations across the UK including members of the UK Health Data Research Alliance - a collaborative group of 33 major health, care and research organisations including NHS trusts, charities, institutes and registries. 

NDPH projects included in the list are: 

  1. Pregnant women aren’t at greater risk from severe COVID-19 overall, although Black and ethnic minority women and those with underlying health problems are more likely to be hospitalised.
  2. The RECOVERY trial showed that the drug dexamethasone cuts deaths by up to a third in severely ill COVID-19 patients while hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral combination lopinavir-ritonavir don’t help - health data was a vital part of the trial.
  3. Around 5,000 heart attack sufferers might have missed out on life-saving hospital treatment as a result of the pandemic.

Caroline Cake, CEO of Health Data Research UK, said ‘It has been inspiring to see how the UK health data research community has come together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, such as securing safe access to relevant datasets for researchers and policymakers, addressing ethical issues around data collection and consent, engaging patients and the public in such a fast-moving environment, and disseminating research findings in a timely way.

‘There is much more to do, and we will continue to work together over the coming months to make sure that health data research is used to benefit everyone and that nobody is left behind.’