National study into long-term Covid-19 impacts launched

The University of Dundee’s Professor James Chalmers is the Scottish lead of a major UK research study into the long-term health impacts of Covid-19 on hospitalised patients launched today.

Professor James Chalmers

The University of Dundee’s Professor James Chalmers is the Scottish lead of a major UK research study into the long-term health impacts of Covid-19 on hospitalised patients launched today.

The PHOSP-COVID study has been awarded £8.4 million jointly by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). It is one of a number of Covid-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Led nationally by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, the PHOSP-COVID study will draw on expertise from a consortium of leading researchers and clinicians from 25 partner organisations across the UK to assess the impact of Covid-19 on patient health and their recovery. The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are the other Scottish institutions taking part.

Around 10,000 patients are expected to take part, making it the largest comprehensive study in the world to understand and improve the health of survivors after hospitalisation from Covid-19.

Professor Chalmers, British Lung Foundation Professor of Respiratory Research at the University, said, “We are seeing increasing numbers of patients reporting long term consequences of Covid-19 infection. This award from UKRI and NIHR is vital, as it will allow us to support these patients in the right way while conducting vital research to find what treatments and rehabilitation approaches will aid recovery.

“I am proud to be co-leading this project and that we have ensured that Scottish patients will play a key role in delivering this project. Every Scottish region is participating in this UK-wide study and we expect over 1000 patients in Scotland to participate over the next year.

“Together we have made huge progress in fighting the coronavirus and this award gives us the national co-ordination and resources to similarly fight against the long term consequences of Covid. Many of my patients feel forgotten because all of the focus has been on treating and preventing the immediate effects of the virus. The message today is that you have not been forgotten and those patients still struggling weeks and months after Covid are going to get the support and research they need.”

Symptoms of Covid-19 vary among those who have tested positive. Some display no symptoms, while others develop severe pneumonia and may tragically lose their lives. For those hospitalised and subsequently discharged, it is not yet clear what the medical, psychological and rehabilitation needs for this group of patients will be to enable them to make as full a recovery as possible.

The PHOSP-COVID study aims to understand why some people recover more quickly than others and why some patients develop subsequent health problems, as well as identifying the most effective treatments received in hospital or afterwards and how to improve patient care after they are discharged from hospital.

Launching the study today, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said, “As we continue our fight against this global pandemic, we are learning more and more about the impact the disease can have not only on immediate health, but longer-term physical and mental health too.

“This world-leading study is another fantastic contribution from the UK’s world-leading life sciences and research sector. It will also help to ensure future treatment can be tailored as much as possible to the person.”

Patients on the study will be assessed using techniques such as advanced imaging, data collection and analysis of blood and lung samples, creating a comprehensive picture of the impact Covid-19 has had on longer term health outcomes across the UK.

The PHOSP-COVID team will then develop trials of new strategies for clinical care, including personalised treatments for groups of patients based on the particular disease characteristics they show as a result of having Covid-19 to improve their long term health.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said, “As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus it is also important to look at the longer term impacts on health, which may be significant.

“We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives but we should also look at how Covid-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease.

“This UKRI- and NIHR-funded study is one of the first steps in doing this.”

The PHOSP-COVID study is widely supported across the NIHR infrastructure, including the Translational Research Collaborations for respiratory, mental health, cardiovascular, dementia, and diet, exercise and nutrition, and many of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, which are set up to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

More information about the study can be found at