04 May 2020
Thousands of existing health records for people who have had COVID-19 are to be examined as part of a major exercise to establish more robust data on the factors impacting the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population.
The exercise is part of a rapid review being led by Public Health England (PHE) to better understand how different factors such as ethnicity, deprivation, age, gender and obesity could impact on how people are affected by COVID-19.
The review will also look at vulnerable groups such as people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping to understand how the virus affects them and their health outcomes.
Where PHE has access to the occupation of cases, particularly related to health workers, analysis will be done on the outcome of infections for this group*.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said:
“Every death from this virus is a tragedy and behind each statistic is a name, a loved one and a family that will never be the same again.
“As part of our continued effort to reduce health inequalities, we have commissioned Public Health England to consider various factors such as obesity, ethnicity, age, gender and geographical location, and how these may have an impact on someone’s susceptibility to the virus, including our brilliant key workers and frontline NHS and social care staff.
“It’s an extremely important and hugely complex task, but we owe it to the nation to find out how this virus may affect different groups in different ways, to protect lives and limit the spread of the disease.”
The review will help provide insight into emerging evidence to suggest COVID-19 may be having a disproportionate impact on different groups and examine the potential effects of other factors such as ethnicity, level of obesity or gender.
The review will also match laboratory records of COVID-19 cases to existing health records to draw down accurate data such as ethnicity and describe the association with COVID-19 cases, alongside other factors such as sex, age and geographical location.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health Director for London will lead the review, supported by a wide group including Trevor Phillips, OBE.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Regional Director of Public Health at PHE and NHS London, said:
“Having an accurate understanding of how diseases affect different groups of people is a really important issue and a fundamental part of PHE’s role. Detailed and careful work is being done so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparities.”
“Increasing evidence and concern around the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic groups highlights an important focus of this review. PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents.
“PHE is engaging a wide range of external experts and independent advisors, representing diverse constituencies including devolved administrations, faith groups, voluntary and community sector organisations, local government, public health, academic, royal colleges and others. We are committed to hearing voices from a variety of perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on people of different ethnicities.”
Findings from the review will be published by the end of May 2020.
Public Health England
*This analysis will initially focus on doctors and nurses in conjunction with the General Medical Council and Nursing Midwifery Council.
To complement the wider disparity review, a research call by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has jointly called for research proposals to investigate emerging evidence of an association between ethnicity and COVID-19 incidence and adverse health outcomes.