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Researchers call for GP practices to feed data to coronavirus study

GP practices in England have been asked to contribute patient data towards a study of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Oxford RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre has contacted nearly 4,000 GP practices, asking them to contribute data on patients who have been diagnosed with the virus.

Working with the Nuffield Department of Primary Care at the University of Oxford, the researchers will use this data to track the peak of the virus, helping to inform Government strategies including on social distancing and lockdown.

Practices are being asked to supply nasal and throat swabs from symptomatic patients, and to additionally provide blood samples from asymptomatic patients having routine blood tests.

Oxford Department of Primary Care head Professor Richard Hobbs said the piece of work which compressed ‘many months of work into a few days’ was ‘significantly extending the only national surveillance of Covid-19 outside of hospitals’.

The study will also include rapid clinical trials of medicines which may reduce the severity and duration of the virus.

Oxford RCGP RSC director Professor Simon de Lusignan said: ‘We already have around 100 practices taking part in the national flu virology surveillance scheme every year in collaboration with Public Health England.

‘We urgently need to increase this. Without the support of more practices we will struggle to recruit the numbers needed for clinical trials.’

EMIS, a company which provides patient record software, and which is cascading the request to participate to practices, said the research was ‘vital’.

Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, chief medical officer at EMIS Group, said: ‘Data is a powerful weapon in the fight against coronavirus. Daily insight from frontline GP practices will allow us to track closely this public health emergency as it develops and enable vitally important research into treatments and a vaccination.’