Patient being treated in a hospital ward

How NHS data is supporting the discovery of lifesaving treatments

Data gathered by NHS Digital has helped researchers discover evidence that an anti-inflammatory drug reduces the risk of death in patients with severe Covid-19.

Run by the University of Oxford, the RECOVERY trial used data from NHS Digital’s Secondary Uses Service (SUS+) and other datasets to help assess the effectiveness of a range of potential treatments for coronavirus.

As part of the trial, tocilizumab - an intravenous drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis - showed a reduced risk of death in hospitalised patients with severe coronavirus. The trial involved 2,022 patients, in which 596 (29%) of the patients in the tocilizumab group died within 28 days, compared with 694 (33%) patients in the usual care group.

Those figures represented a finding that, for every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, one additional life would be saved.

The study also showed the drug shortened the time until patients are discharged from hospital and reduces the need for a mechanical ventilator.

Jem Rashbass, Executive Director for Data and Analytical Services at NHS Digital, said: “This is a fantastic development and a great example of the lifesaving impact that research, using the data that we securely curate at NHS Digital and provide through the NHS DigiTrials service, can have.

“In supporting this trial, we are helping the Oxford-led team find new ways the NHS and health systems globally can make data-driven decisions on how best to care for Covid-19 patients.”

Professor Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and Joint Chief Investigator, said: “The results from the RECOVERY trial clearly show the benefits of tocilizumab and dexamethasone in tackling the worst consequences of Covid-19 – improving survival, shortening hospital stay, and reducing the need for mechanical ventilators.

“Used in combination, the impact is substantial. This is good news for patients and good news for the health services that care for them in the UK and around the world.

“We simply would not know this if it wasn’t for the incredible support of NHS patients and staff in the most challenging of circumstances.”

NHE May/June 21

NHE May/June 21

The needs of district and community nursing

NHE’s May/June 2021 edition focuses on all the different aspects of the NHS which help bring together an effective, efficient health service. These include optimising the NHS estate, outsourcing & procurement, introducing digital innovation and integrating health and social care.


View all videos
BMC Whitepaper


How well do the NHS understand digital potential?

Recently we have been gathering primary data direct from those within the NHS on modernising NHS technology and the challenges faced around resource, training and service management.

Download the full whitepaper and read the full findings in our exclusive report to learn more.

Finger on the Pulse

Ep 14. Health messaging is a science, Professor Craig Jackson

On Episode 14 of NHE's Finger on the Pulse podcast, we're joined by Professor Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology
Birmingham City University to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the health messaging around it and how those in power have missed a trick by overlooking the key role of psychology in informing the public of restrictions, measures and the ever-changing situation

More articles...

View all