The long-term socio-economic and health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of high-quality administrative data research to guide government decision-making as the UK prepares to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions.

ADR UK’s partners have been engaged in producing vital research using public sector administrative data to better understand the pandemic’s effects on different groups in society with respect to health, education and the economy, and to inform UK and devolved government Covid-19 responses.

Read on to find out about some of the important work the partnership has done.

ADR England

As a result of the ADR England-funded Local Data Spaces (LDS) programme, a series of reports using administrative data to analyse the local impacts of Covid-19 are now accessible to all local authorities in England for free. In the short term, it is hoped these will be used by local authorities and stakeholders to explore the impacts of the pandemic in their localities and inform their pandemic responses. Analyses undertaken as part of the LDS programme have also fed into UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reports.

The ECHILD project receives funding from ADR England and involves the creation of a research-ready database linking health, education and social care data for all children in England for the first time. The ECHILD database is being used by researchers at UCL to understand how disruptions to services during lockdowns have affected children’s health and education. The findings of this work will help government, and the providers of services for vulnerable children, better understand children’s needs and see who might be falling through the gaps.

ADR Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, researchers from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) have generated early evidence on Covid-19 related deaths by reporting on excess mortality and its association with pre-existing health conditions. NISRA research has also shown how Covid-19 mortality has been unevenly distributed in Northern Ireland with age–standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) varying by gender and area. NISRA researchers, in collaboration with Queen’s University, are currently undertaking linked data research to establish if Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted people with pre-existing health conditions and different ethnic, disability, Section 75 (for example, religious) and socio-economic groups.

Researchers at the Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) are creating linked datasets in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Department of Health and the Public Health Agency, and in collaboration with Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) National Core Studies at a UK-level, to better quantify the risks and impact of Health and Social Care delivery planning in a current and post-pandemic society.

ADRC NI researcher Dr Siobhan Murphy collaborated with the NI Public Health Agency (PHA) to monitor and evaluate the care home vaccination roll-out; a report was presented to the Chief Medical Officer. Dr Murphy, Professor Dermot O’Reilly and Dr Declan Bradley have been collaborating on one of the National Core Studies (NCS), Covid-19 Vaccines Pharmacovigilance (DaC-VaP). Dr Aideen Maguire and her team are also researching the mental health impact of the pandemic and the lockdowns on the Northern Ireland population.

ADR Scotland

ADR Scotland continues to support the Scottish Government’s data-driven Covid-19 responses by collecting and providing guidance and information governance support for non-health datasets. Using the experience of building the ADR Scotland Data Linkage Infrastructure, they have been able to rapidly support the development of a system to hold datasets relevant to Covid-19. They have also provided specialist support to other Scottish Government analysts and researchers as they seek to gain access to other UK government bodies’ pandemic datasets by working with ONS.

ADR Scotland researchers have co-produced policy-critical research on Covid-19 with Scottish Government, including community based Covid-19 mortality and risk factors for Covid-19, and a timely analysis on deaths at home during the pandemic.

Professor Susan McVie’s research on policing the pandemic has been cited both in a UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights publication and a Scottish Parliament Justice Sub-Committee on Policing report, and she has received further funding to pursue this research.

In addition, an innovative new household linkage tool – the CHI-UPRN Residential Linkage (CURL) tool – has enhanced understanding of household transmission during the pandemic. It is being further developed by Scotland’s Covid-19 data and intelligence network and will be a valuable tool for future administrative data research.

ADR Wales

‘One Wales’ is a cross-institutional partnership formed after the first lockdown in 2020 when data-driven evidence was urgently needed for policy decision-making to tackle the pandemic. The partnership includes the Welsh Government, the NHS, ADR Wales, HDR UKSAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) DatabankBREATHE (the HDR UK Hub for Respiratory Health), the Adolescent Data Platform (ADP)Public Health Wales and Digital Health and Care Wales.

ADR Wales researchers have developed a sophisticated geo-spatial modelling method estimating the near real-time prevalence of infections at the community level using Covid-19 testing data. At the height of the pandemic, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales commissioned work to identify ‘high risk’ people in the Welsh population based on methodology employed by NHS Digital, referred to as the Shielded Patient List (SPL). A collection of rapid response projects was undertaken that looked at the experiences of those on the SPL, and those living with them.

The first population-level study of Covid-19 transmission risks between pupils and staff in schools directly informed the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and decision-making on re-opening schools in early 2021 by demonstrating how the risk of staff testing positive was unconnected to the opening of schools between September and December 2020.

new study is also currently underway that will provide a vital retrospective analysis of the pandemic’s infection rates among people who are homeless in Wales. This project and others across the UK have been made possible due to access to new datasets acquired by ADR Wales and held in its partnered SAIL Databank.

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

ONS and partners are making high-quality data available through the Secure Research Service (SRS), which has been crucial in informing the government’s pandemic response. ONS enabled rapid data collection for new surveys – including the Covid-19 Infection Survey and the Business Insights and Conditions Survey – which have provided essential evidence on the long-term socio-economic impacts of the virus. This has been complemented with analysis of newly linked administrative datasets to understand the socio-demographic context of infections and mortality.

Additionally, data hosted within the SRS has been used by the HDR UK-coordinated National Core Studies programme to inform near and long-term pandemic responses. Find out more about these datasets in the SRS Data Catalogue, available via the ONS website. All applications to use these datasets should be made via the Research Accreditation Service.

Find out more about all of the projects underway across the ADR UK partnership on the Projects page.

A previous update on the partnership’s contribution to the pandemic response as of November 2020 can also be viewed.