Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC)

The RSC is part of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Centre (CIRC). It is an internationally renowned source of information, analysis and interpretation of primary care data.

Established in 1957, the RSC is an active research and surveillance unit which collects and monitors data since 1967, in particular influenza and other respiratory diseases, from over 230 practices across England. The Centre also contributes to vaccine effectiveness monitoring, with some recent findings found here.

Research and Surveillance Centre – a cohort profile

The RSC is a representative network, having only small differences with the national population, which have now been quantified and can be assessed for clinical relevance for specific studies. With twice weekly data extractions, the dataset is one of the most up to date in the UK.

A recently published article describes the network and the usefulness of our practices' data. This free to access paper is a great source of information for anyone unfamiliar with the dataset.

The article describes the first 650,000 patients processed through our new hub established in March 2015.  We now have over approximately 1,500,000 patients in the weekly report, which is around 1.5% of the English population. We will continue to expand the network until we cover around 2% of the national population.

The Centre is keen to hear about new opportunities for collaboration. To work with us, please download and complete our data request form and send to Ivelina Yonova.

RCGP RSC Annual Report 2014/15

The RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre publishes an annual report, which summarises the trends of communicable and respiratory diseases for the past year in England. Over 100 volunteer practices provide data to make this report possible. See the report here.

An article that was recently published at the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) demonstrates the scope of data with the RCGP Annual Report 2014–2015 (May 2014 to April 2015) by describing disparities in the presentation of six common conditions included in the report.

Weekly communicable and respiratory disease reports

The RSC publishes weekly reports on communicable and respiratory diseases in England. These include data broken down by region for incidences of influenza-like illness and other respiratory diseases, as well as information on environmentally sensitive and water and food-borne disorders. If you would like to receive an email of the weekly results, please contact Ivelina Yonova

  • Week 14 of 2017 Report [PDF]
  • Week 15 of 2017 Report [PDF]

Weekly gastroenteritis reports

The RSC publishes weekly reports on gastroenteritis disease in England. These include data broken down by region for incidences of Gastroenteritis. For more information on this report please contact CIRC@rcgp.org.uk.

  • Week 14 of 2017 Report [PDF] 
  • Week 15 of 2017 Report [PDF]

Information for general practice

The RSC is currently collecting data from over 230 practices across England with current denominator of approximately 1,500,000 patients, and the number is increasing. We are always  looking for more practices across England to join the network.

How to become a member

To express interest, please email Ivelina Yonova or Mariya Hriskova.

Why should your practice join?

Your practice would contribute to public health and to research within the RCGP. All GPs can participate in the network, regardless of membership to the RCGP.

The core surveillance and vaccine effectiveness work is mainly funded by Public Health England, with other research and surveillance conducted in collaboration with a range of organisations, some working across Europe. All practices in the network have the opportunity to participate in new projects, and some work includes payment to cover practice time. All practices also receive individual feedback on data quality.

Levels of membership

There are two levels of membership:

1. Member:
Practices providing data and undergoing data quality (DQ) assessment. Feedback is given to practices.

2. Microbiological Sample Providing Practices (MSPP):
These practices provide microbiological samples as part of our surveillance programmes, as well as high quality data. Most will be providing nasal and throat swabs (swabbing practices) for influenza surveillance, though we also are involved in programmes relating to surveillance for gastrointestinal infectious disease (northwest of England only). Members of these programmes will have completed the online learning relevant to the programmes they are participating in.

Information for researchers

The RSC is currently involved in a number of research projects. We always welcome collaborations in ethical research from all kinds of organisations. Please contact Ivelina Yonova or Mariya Hriskova if you are interested.

European Projects:

 I-MOVE+ - The RSC works in collaboration with leading European Public Health Institutes and Universities to measure and compare the effectiveness  and impact  of influenza, Pneumococcal vaccines and vaccination strategies in the elderly population in Europe. The goal is to develop a sustainable platform of primary care practices, hospitals and laboratory networks that share validated methods to evaluate post marketing vaccine performances.

• ADVANCE - The Accelerated Development of Vaccine benefit-risk Collaboration in Europe Funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). ADVANCE is focused on more rapidly generating best evidence on vaccine benefits and risks. It aims to establish a blueprint for a validated and tested best practice framework that could rapidly provide robust data to support accelerated decision making.

Other Projects:

• The live-attenuated influenza vaccination (LAIV) project - The RSC is working with Public Health England and the University of Surrey on the pilot of a universal childhood (LAIV) programme. The UK initiated a universal childhood immunisation programme with a newly licensed intransally-administered trivalent LAIV in the 2013/14 influenza season.

• Integrate Project (Enhanced Gastroenteritis Surveillance) - A Wellcome-DH funded research study led by Prof Sarah O’Brien at Liverpool University. The objective is to create enhanced surveillance systems for gastrointestinal illness. The surveillance system includes veterinary surveillance and more advanced and rapid identification of organisms responsible for vomiting and diarrhoea. Integrate patient recruitment has now ended and the project is now focusing on the analysis of the findings.

• Flu virology scheme - Around 90 of the RSC practices are included in the flu virology specimen scheme. These practices provide nasal and throat specimens during the flu season each year from patients clinically suspected of having flu. This helps to establish which strain of the flu is dominant in the current season and likely to be dominant the following flu season and how the flu vaccine can be improved in order to target these specific strains.

• Diabetes Real World Evidence Centre - The RSC is providing data, subject to ethical approval, for studies looking at adherence and the thresholds at which different clinicians implement injectable therapy in type 2 diabetes.

If you have further queries, please contact Ivelina Yonova or Mariya Hriskova

Information for patients

The RSC works closely with the RCGP patients group. Patients are encouraged to join this group and feedback to the centre.

What is the RSC National Monitoring Network?

The National Monitoring Network is a network of GP surgeries across England that contributes medical information to an electronic database. The information collected by the network is used for the surveillance of a range of common infections and diseases that doctors regularly diagnose. The current focus is on spotting changes in infections and other diseases. It also researches vaccine benefits. It is involved in other research, including diabetes, though any research will be ethically approved by the relevant research ethics committee. The network is mainly funded by Public Health England.

Why is this network important?

The network is monitoring infections and diseases in the community. Surveillance is also important for responding to specific incidents that might affect the health of the public. For example, the RSC can monitor influenza rates during the winter. If these exceed normal levels, we inform doctors and hospitals to warn them that they might expect an increase in patients using services. A high level of influenza can also trigger the release of special additional measures, such as the release of anti-flu medications.  During the pandemic of 2009, the RSC provided samples to observe the spread of the virus in the community and monitor if the anti-viral drugs prescribed were effective.

How is information from each consultation used?

After a consultation the doctor enters the information using relevant codes in the patient's computerised medical record system. This information includes the GP's diagnosis of what might be causing the patient's symptoms or illnesses. The RSC performs a search on the surgery computer system data for information about all new diagnoses that have been made. These diagnoses include information about diseases, and information about other activities in the surgery such as vaccination details, so that the RSC can study effectiveness. The data are anonymised prior to being used for research. As the identifying information (such as names, addresses and date of birth) are removed from the record, patients cannot be identified from these extracted records.

How does this affect patients?

All information is collected anonymously and should not affect patient care in any way. The information is extremely important for protecting the whole population. The RSC has taken all measures necessary to ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained. There is a mechanism by which a patient can decide not to allow their information to be used: please inform your GP and your information will not be included in the anonymised database.

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