Research and Surveillance Centre

The RSC is part of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Centre (CIRC). It is an internationally renowned source of information, analysis and interpretation, dedicated to research the onset patterns, prevalence and trends over time of morbidity in primary care.

Established in 1957, the RSC is an active research and surveillance unit which collects and monitors data, in particular influenza and other diseases, and monitors vaccine effectiveness. The RSC is a network of approximately 100 participating general practices across England and Wales, and welcomes new practices to join.

Information for Patients and Citizens

The RSC works closely with the RCGP patients group. Patients are encouraged to join this group and feedback to the centre about how they use data.

What is the RSC National Monitoring Network?

The National Monitoring Network is a network of GP surgeries across England and Wales that contribute medical information to an electronic database. It is run and managed by a small team of highly skilled staff. The information collected by the network is used for the surveillance of a range of common infections and diseases that doctors regularly diagnose during consultations with their patients. The current focus is on spotting changes in infections and other diseases. It also researches vaccine benefits and risk and antibiotic use and resistance. It is involved in other research, including new projects in diabetes, though any research will be ethically approved by the relevant research ethics committee. The network is funded by Public Health England.

Why is this network important?

The point of surveillance is to monitor infections and diseases in the community. This is important for knowing how common certain diseases are in the population. For example, the RSC can monitor influenza rates during the winter, and if this exceeds normal levels we can inform doctors and hospitals to warn them that they might expect to see 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. Surveillance is also important for responding to specific incidents that might affect the health of the public. 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 patient and GP consultation the doctor enters the information gained in the surgery computerised medical record system. This information can include 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 that are copied from the computer system 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 project is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and the RSC has taken all measures necessary to ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained. There is a mechanism by which a patient can decide to allow their information not to be used: please inform your GP and your information will not be included in the anonymised database.

Information for General Practice

The RSC is currently collecting data from around 100 practices across England and Wales, and the number is increasing.

How to become a member

To express interest, please email Professor Simon de Lusignan at medicaldirectorRSC@rcgp.org.uk

Why should your practice join?

Your practice would make a valuable contribution 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 funded by Public Health England, with other research and surveillance conducted in collaboration with a range of research and surveillance organisations, some working across Europe. As a contributory practice to the network, there is a possible opportunity to participate in new projects, such as the monitoring of vaccination programmes and emergence of antibiotic resistance. Some work will, wherever funding is attached, include payment to cover practice time.

Levels of membership

There are three levels of membership, with the supply of high quality data and active participation in a surveillance scheme being the highest level. The levels of membership are:

1. Member:

Practices providing data and undergoing data quality (DQ) assessment. Feedback is planned to be given to practices in 2015.

2. National Surveillance Data Provider (NSDP) member:

Practices providing data to one or more of our national surveillance schemes. These practices meet or exceed our data quality requirements for the programmes they are participating in. Members of these practices will have completed the online learning about the network and the role, and our information governance module (being introduced in 2015). The online learning can be used for appraisal and re-validation portfolios.

3. 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) and chlamydia resistance. There is a possibility that a programme will look at antibiotic resistance in urinary tract infections. Members of these programmes will have completed the online learning relevant to the programmes they are participating in (this will be introduced in 2015).

Public Health England (PHE)

The work in the Centre is funded by PHE, find out more information here.

Weekly communicable and respiratory disease reports

The RSC publishes weekly reports on communicable and respiratory diseases in England and Wales. 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 a text or email of the weekly results, please contact Ivelina Yonova on Ivelina.yonova@rcgp.org.uk 

Week 50 08/12/2014 – 14/12/2014 [PDF]

Information for Researchers

The RSC is currently involved in a number of research projects. We welcome collaborations in ethical research. Please contact the RSC Director Professor Simon de Lusignan on s.lusignan@surrey.ac.uk or the Practice Liaison Officer Ms Ivelina Yonova on i.yonova@surrey.ac.uk if you are interested.

The live-attenuated influenza vaccination (LAIV) project

The RSC is working with PHE and the University of Surrey (UoS) 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.

Despite recommendations for universal childhood influenza immunisation in several countries, only limited observational data have been published on the impact of such programmes. When the implementation of the new UK childhood influenza vaccine was planned, the RSC was invited to collaborate in the programme which provides an opportunity to add to this evidence base. Practices in pilot areas have been invited to join the existing RSC surveillance and monitoring network and data from the pilot practices was collected and analysed. Find out more information here.

ADVANCE

The RSC is involved in The Accelerated Development of Vaccine benefit-risk Collaboration in Europe (ADVANCE) project funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The project is focused on timely and 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 on vaccine benefits and risks to support accelerated decision making. Find out more information here.

Shingles surveillance

The RSC is working with PHE on surveillance of uptake and effectiveness of the shingles vaccination of people over 70, which began a phased introduction in September 2013. Find out more information here.

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