Informing policy and decision-making

Providing evidence to help guide the national response

NIHR research is helping to understand:

  • who is most affected by COVID-19
  • how to prevent its transmission
  • the impact of public health measures to control the outbreak. 

Our research is considered by SAGE, the Department of Health and Social Care, and Public Health England, to guide the national response to the pandemic.

This includes a number of rapid projects to directly support policy decision-making during the pandemic, through our Policy Research Units.

Who is most affected by COVID-19 - and why?

We’re supporting a number of major studies that are helping us to understand which hospital patients are most affected by COVID-19. Together, this research provides essential weekly updates to SAGE that guide the public health response, and has helped to understand the clinical features of COVID-19, how the disease progresses, and the role of patients’ genetic makeup.

The UK Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium (known as ISARIC4C), which is funded by the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is the largest observational study of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 anywhere in the world. The study has developed online risk assessment tools that NHS doctors are using to predict which hospital patients are more likely to deteriorate or die, so they can plan ahead for the needs of individual patients.

Feeding into the data held by ISARIC4C are the Genetics of Susceptibility and Mortality in Critical Care (GenOMICC) study, which is researching how genes affect whether people become severely ill with COVID-19, and the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, which is investigating immune responses to the novel coronavirus.

The Post-Hospitalisation COVID-19 Study (PHOSP-COVID) is collecting information from COVID-19 patients after they have been discharged from hospital, to gain a comprehensive picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on longer term health outcomes across the UK.

Separately, a number of projects are underway by NIHR researchers to understand how COVID-19 affects people of black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.

Understanding how coronavirus spreads

In partnership with UKRI, we’ve funded eight research projects that will investigate how the virus spreads, in:

  • schoolchildren
  • healthcare workers
  • a strictly-Orthodox Jewish community
  • medical settings
  • and on surfaces in public spaces

We’re also supporting the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey, and have awarded the study Urgent Public Health status to expedite its delivery through the NHS.

Protecting the public’s health

NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between universities and Public Health England, and have been at the forefront of protecting the health of the nation during the pandemic.

For example, the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, and its work, is formally written into the UK Government’s coronavirus action plan. During the first six months of the COVID-19 outbreak, the unit assisted the government, the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, and NHS England in implementing the findings of its rapid reviews and studies.

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation has been part of a rapid adaptation of a free evidence-based behaviour change website, that is proving successful at reducing the spread of infection in people’s homes.

Examples of our research

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