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.”

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The integration of new technology, such as using virtual outpatient appointments instead of face-to-face reviews of patients in the hospital. Adapting the ways in which our NHS workers serve people has been critical in continuing to provide high-quality treatment, a positive patient experience and preventing Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic. Our healthcare sector has the potential to transform the way we continue to provide essential services while also improving patient care. But how easy is the integration of these innovations into routine NHS practice?

On the 28th of October, at the NHE365 Virtual Hospitals & Technology Enabled Care online event, we will be discussing patient flow and experience, reducing waiting times, reducing the patient backlog and increasing technology adoption. Will you be attending? 

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