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NHS Digital enables researchers to find effective treatment for COVID-19

Data curated by NHS Digital, and serviced through NHS DigiTrials, has successfully enabled researchers find a major breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19.
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Data curated by NHS Digital, and serviced through NHS DigiTrials, has successfully enabled researchers find a major breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19.

The Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial run by scientists at the University of Oxford and involving NHS trusts and patients from across the UK, has used data from NHS Digital’s Secondary Uses Service (SUS+) and other data sets, to help assess the effectiveness of a number of potential treatments for COVID-19.

This has resulted in the low dose-steroid treatment, dexamethasone, being found to help patients who have contracted coronavirus, with the study suggesting that it can cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen.

Tom Denwood, Executive Director of Data, Insights and Statistics at NHS Digital, said: “This is fantastic progress and I’m proud that the data that we securely curate at NHS Digital, and provide through the NHS DigiTrials service, has had such a vital role in helping the Oxford led team find new ways the NHS, and health systems globally, can effectively treat and manage patients during the coronavirus epidemic.

“This will result in even better outcomes, as well as reducing the burden on our critical frontline colleagues.”

By using data collected by NHS Digital, and where there is clear public benefit, we can help to minimise the burden on frontline NHS staff and enable rapid assessment of new treatments to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from NHS Digital’s Secondary Uses Service (SUS), Civil Registration Data as well as other COVID-19 data sources, have been used to help understand the overall effectiveness of the treatments. Access to data was via a rigorous access process, and involved the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data, to assure the public benefit.

This work is part of a wider set of services being developed to support clinical trialists through the NHS DigiTrials Health Data Research hub.  The hub brings together experts, through a consortium involving NHS Digital, the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, IBM and Microsoft, and supported by the Association of Medical Research Charities, Health Research Authority and the National Institute for Health Research, with relevant data to help support future clinical trials.

The hub aims to help NHS patients across England participate in clinical trials of new treatments with the ambition to see much larger numbers taking part in clinical research, which reduces the cost and time taken to conduct the trials. The results of these trials will influence the day-to-day care of millions of future NHS patients with a wide range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.


Learn more about the trial


Learn more about NHS DigiTrials

NHS DigiTrials

Notes to editors

  1. The Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) is a world-leading research institute, based at the University of Oxford that investigates the causes and prevention of disease. NDPH has over 500 staff working in a number of world-renowned population health research groups, including the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU), the Cancer Epidemiology Unit (CEU), the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) and other groups working on non-communicable disease prevention, public health, health economics, ethics and health record linkage. It is also a key partner in the Oxford University Big Data Institute.

NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital

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Last edited: 17 June 2020 3:25 pm