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Information for patients about the COVID-19 Clinical Risk Assessment Tool

The COVID-19 Clinical Risk Assessment Tool helps NHS staff estimate: the combined risk of you catching and dying from coronavirus the combined risk of you catching and being admitted to hospital for coronavirus This helps you, and the NHS staff supporting you, understand how at risk you are from coronavirus, and the steps you could take to reduce your risk. You don’t need to contact your GP or clinician to have a risk assessment. They’ll contact you if they need to.

You don’t need to contact your GP or clinician to have a risk assessment. They’ll contact you if they need to.

How the tool works

The online tool works out how at risk you may be based on research by the University of Oxford. Researchers looked at information about people who had coronavirus in early 2020 to find out if certain things like age, ethnicity, weight and health conditions impact how coronavirus affects people.

The researchers found that some of these things make it more likely that a person may need to go to hospital or die from coronavirus – these are called ‘risk factors’.

The researchers then used this information to create a way of estimating how at risk a person might be, based on the answers to questions about them and their health.


How NHS staff can use the tool

Your clinician will enter information into the online tool about you, your health and the medicines you take. Some of this information will be taken from your health record but your clinician may also need to ask you some additional questions. They may also need to measure your height and weight to work out your body mass index (BMI).

Your clinician will enter information about your:

  • age
  • sex registered at birth
  • ethnicity
  • living arrangements (whether you live in your own home, in a care home or are homeless)
  • postcode
  • height and weight
  • medical history (for example heart or liver conditions, or whether you have had cancer treatment)

Each piece of information is then used by the online tool to generate a risk assessment. Risk factors that have a bigger impact on how people are affected by coronavirus will contribute more to your results.

The tool does not store or share any of your personal information. You can ask your clinician for a copy of their privacy notice for more information about how your information is used.


Understanding your results

Your clinician will talk to you about your results, explain what they mean for you and may discuss with you things the online tool cannot take into account, such as your occupation, individual behaviour (such as hand washing, wearing face coverings and visiting friends or family), current infection rates and whether you have had a coronavirus vaccine. Your clinician may also talk to you about:

  • shielding (staying at home and following government advice) during the pandemic
  • possible health and lifestyle changes
  • a decision on what to do about your health or treatment

The online tool will generate results for absolute risk and relative risk, estimating how likely it is that you could:

  • catch coronavirus and go to hospital
  • catch coronavirus and die

Absolute risk

Absolute risk is the overall risk, based on what happened to other people with the same characteristics and risk factors who caught coronavirus and went to hospital or died as a result.

Example: combined risk of catching coronavirus and being admitted to hospital

If someone has an absolute risk of 2%, we expect there to be a 2 in 100 chance that they will catch coronavirus and need to go to hospital as a result.

Example: combined risk of catching coronavirus and dying

If someone has an absolute risk of 1%, we expect there to be a 1 in 100 chance that they will catch coronavirus and die as a result.


Relative risk

 Relative risk is the level of risk compared to a person who is the same age and sex registered at birth as you, but without any other risk factors.

Example: combined risk of catching coronavirus and being admitted to hospital

If someone has a relative risk of 2, we expect them to be twice as likely to catch coronavirus and need to go to hospital as a result than someone who does not have their risk factors.

Example: combined risk of catching coronavirus and dying

If someone has a relative risk of 3 for catching coronavirus and dying, we expect them to be three times more likely to catch coronavirus and die than someone who does not have their risk factors.


Current limitations of the tool

Because we don’t yet have enough research about some groups of people, risk assessment results may not be accurate for:

  • people aged under 19 and over 100, because the research was done on adults aged from 19 to 100 and because very few children became seriously ill with coronavirus
  • people who are trans or intersex, because the research was done using information about the sex people were registered with at birth
  • people who are pregnant, because only small numbers of pregnant people were included in the research so we cannot be confident about their level of risk
  • people who have conditions that meant they would have been advised to shield during the first wave because, when the research was done, many of these people were shielding at home and so were less likely to catch coronavirus. This means the tool may underestimate the risk for these people

Your clinician can explain more about what these limitations may mean for you personally when they discuss your risk assessment with you.


Missing information

If NHS staff do not have a certain piece of information about you and you cannot provide them with the information, the online tool may use a default or replacement value. This might mean that your risk assessment results are higher or lower than they would have been if this information had been available.

For example, if you or your clinician cannot measure your height and weight (used to work out BMI) and this is left blank, the online tool will use a default BMI of 25. Your clinician will explain more about this and how this might change your risk assessment results.


Updates to the tool

Researchers are continuing to learn more about coronavirus as more information becomes available. Over time, the online tool will be updated to reflect this and other changes such as new strains, vaccination and levels of immunity.

Last edited: 16 February 2021 1:43 pm