The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research , will link routine health data recorded in GP surgeries to the records of the most severely ill patients admitted to hospital intensive care units.
The linked data will then be analysed to find out which existing health problems, drug treatments, or other factors, such as smoking or pregnancy, are most strongly associated with people being admitted to intensive care or dying due to the virus.
Knowing more about who is most at risk of harm will enable health care professionals to advise patients on how to minimise their exposure to the virus, make decisions about when to treat people - earlier for those most at risk - and prioritise treatments for those who are most likely to benefit.
Data will be drawn from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) and the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) .
Dr Rupert Payne , Consultant Senior Lecturer in Primary Care at the Centre for Academic Primary Care and lead researcher on the project, said: "We know that older people and individuals with pre-existing health problems who develop COVID-19 are at higher risk of serious disease or death. Better information on exactly which patients are at risk will help the NHS and public health authorities guide patient care and save lives.
"We hope our research will inform the ongoing response to COVID-19, as well as serving as an invaluable resource for future research looking at the wider impact of the pandemic on primary care health services."