Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disorders in primary care: an observational study of UK national primary care electronic health records


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a paradigm shift in the way primary care operates and patients with non-COVID related symptoms are managed. Almost all patients are managed remotely. Routes to refer patients routinely for specialist care have been paused. This study aims to use primary care electronic healthcare records to explore changing trends in the prevalence and incidence of consultations for rheumatic musculoskeletal disorders (RMDs), prescribing of analgesia, and the incidence and time to diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and juvenile idiopathic arthropathy (JIA) in the pre- peri- and post- pandemic periods.

Facts and Figures

Project Lead
V Welsh
Keele University
FOREUM research grant: €99.195
2020 - 2022

Meet the Team

V Welsh
Keele University
C Burton
Keele University
K Jordan
Keele University
J Bailey
Keele University
M Frisher
Keele University
C Mallen
Keele University


The study objective is to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients experiencing RMDs including changes in consultation patterns, analgesic prescribing and timely referral for new presentations of inflammatory RMDs.

Patient Voice

This work is essential to investigate the indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the care of patients with RMDs. Identifying trends in consultation, analgesic prescribing, and diagnosis of inflammatory RMDs will provide evidence to underpin future pandemic planning to enable access to non-pharmacological management options and to ensure those with inflammatory RMDs are identified and referred to specialist care in a timely manner in order to maximize long term outcomes.


1) receiving data from CPRD (Sep-20)
2) completing database preparation and starting data analysis (Dec-20 and Jan-21)
3) completing analysis of pre- and peri-COVID-19 data for hypotheses (Jul-21)
4) receiving further data from CPRD (Sept-21)
5) completing database preparation (Dec-21)
6) completing analysis of peri- and post COVID-19 time periods (May-22)
7) writing results with a final PPIE meeting (May-22)
8) submitting conference abstracts (Jun-22) and publications to peer-reviewed journals (Jul-22)
9) engagement with external agencies to promote RMD health (Jul-22)