Coding is caring: Using data to combat the Strep A outbreak
Publication date: 16 December 2022
The current Strep A outbreak is bringing the work of the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) into focus.
Our internationally renowned source of information is run in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the UK Health Security Agency, and collects and monitors data kindly shared by over 1,900 GP practices across England and Wales. The RSC has produced weekly reports on disease prevalence for over 55 years, available online at the RCGP's RSC web section.
The network covers approximately a third of the English population, but our work largely goes on ‘behind the scenes’ until we have a health ‘crisis’ such as a pandemic.
Our latest Weekly Return data report shows a further rise in cases in Scarlatina (scarlet fever) in addition to an increase in Influenza Like Illness (ILI).
Will Elson, a GP and DPhil student at Oxford working with the RSC, has kindly produced the following useful graphs.
In the last ten days, counts of scarlet fever cases have surpassed the peak seen in 2018, especially amongst the under 5s.
At the RSC, we say that ‘coding is caring’ and that’s why we’re appealing to GPs not to code a respiratory infection as ‘cough’ (a symptom code), but instead to use a disease code like URTI, LRTI or influenza-like-illness (ILI). It's best to be even more specific about your patient's diagnosis – including using ‘Streptococcal sore throat’.
The power of data
Please join our fantastic GP colleagues who are already sharing their data with us. Our sampling practices are so important in informing what viruses are circulating and the effectiveness of the country’s flu and COVID-19 vaccination programmes. And the more sampling we can do, the better we understand what infections are circulating and about vaccine effectiveness.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the network was invaluable in supporting many investigational trials, and informed many key decisions about controlling the spread of the disease, and about vaccine effectiveness and waning.
We supported recruitment to the PRINCIPLE trial, particularly in its early stages. This trial was based in the community, tested and repurposed, with new medications being explored as potential acute COVID treatments.
If you want to get involved with the RSC, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the writer
Professor Simon de Lusignan is Director of the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC).