Covid-19: Risk model identifies 800,000 vulnerable individuals

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Research funded by the National Institute for Health Research has resulted in the development of a new coronavirus risk assessment model

Cliff Saran

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Published: 16 Feb 2021 14:52

Oxford University has turned its research on Covid-19 into a risk prediction model called QCovid to help clinicians identify a new group of people who may be at high risk from the virus.

The QCovid model, which was developed using anonymised data from more than eight million adults, provides nuanced assessment of risk by taking into account a number of different factors that are cumulatively used to estimate risk, including ethnicity. It will be used by NHS Digital to develop a population risk assessment. 

As a result, more than 800,000 adults will now be prioritised to receive a vaccine as part of the current vaccination cohorts.

Research, commissioned by England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found there are several health and personal factors, such as age, ethnicity and body mass index, as well as certain medical conditions and treatments, which, when combined, could mean someone is at higher risk from Covid-19.

Lead researcher Julia Hippisley-Cox, a general practitioner and professor of clinical epidemiology and general practice at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “I am delighted that, less than a year after being funded by the NIHR, the model is now being used to help protect people at most risk from Covid-19.” 

The technology analyses these risk factors based on medical records, to assess whether a person may be more vulnerable than was previously understood, helping clinicians to provide vaccination to them more quickly and ensuring that patients can benefit from additional advice and support. 

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “This new model is a tribute to our health and technology researchers. The model’s data-driven approach to medical risk assessment will help the NHS identify further individuals who may be at high risk from Covid-19 due to a combination of personal and health factors.”

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: “This extends the work we did last year to develop the Shielded Patients List, which included individuals with one of a number of specific clinical conditions.

“It is a privilege to be able to support the chief medical officer and his team in their quest to deliver the most sophisticated Covid-19 risk prediction capability.”

According to the Royal College of Physicians, the adoption of this risk assessment model by the NHS will play an important role in supporting clinicians and patients with conversations about Covid-19 and enable decisions to be made with a greater understanding of personal risk. 

“As with all research during the pandemic, we are constantly learning and so can continue to further enhance the model as data becomes available,” said a spokesperson for the Royal College of Physicians. “We look forward to providing continued feedback and views from clinicians to support its ongoing development.”

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