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New NIHR-funded study aims to help A&E departments better identify patients with serious cases of COVID-19

Published: 22 April 2020

A new study funded by NIHR could help A&E departments identify which patients with coronavirus should be admitted to hospital or not.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, aims to optimise how patients with COVID-19 are assessed and treated by the emergency care system in the current pandemic.

The Pandemic Respiratory Infection Emergency System Triage (PRIEST) study, is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England through the NIHR’s national prioritisation process.

Launched in collaboration with hospitals across the UK, the study will use patient data from the early phases of the pandemic to test how well existing triage methods in A&E departments and ambulance services predict which patients with the virus are likely to develop serious illness or complications. The project will also identify cases where the triage methods did not predict serious complications or recommended unnecessary hospital admissions.

Two new triage methods will also be developed, based upon patients presenting clinical characteristics alone, and presenting clinical characteristics, electrocardiogram (ECG), chest X-ray and routine blood test results. Researchers will use hospital records to follow up on the progress of patients for up to 30 days.

The results of the study may also be able to help identify which patient characteristics are associated with a higher risk of serious complications, such as age or underlying health conditions.

Professor Steve Goodacre, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: “Hospitals will be under severe pressure during the pandemic. Our project aims to improve assessment so that hospital beds are used for people who need them most.”

The study funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme is part of a suite of projects funded by the NIHR following the swine flu outbreak in 2009 which were set up and then put into hibernation, ready to be reactivated if another flu pandemic broke out. PRIEST, formerly known as the PAINTED study, has been adapted to COVID-19 and activated for this pandemic.

The NIHR has established a single, national prioritisation process to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the resources and capacity of the health and care system to support COVID-19 research are not exceeded. Learn more about this process and other studies that have been given urgent public health status at

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Pandemic Respiratory Infection Emergency System Triage Study

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