UK Biobank was set up as a prospective study, which means it is designed to follow participants’ health over many years. This allows researchers to collect vital information on who gets what sorts of diseases (and who does not), allowing them to find out why some people get certain illnesses and others do not. A critical part of this process is to have accurate information on people’s health. It is especially useful to have information about people before they show signs of becoming ill which is a great strength of the UK Biobank project. Of course, none of this information provided to researchers will identify UK Biobank participants. UK Biobank is updated regularly by information from death registers, national cancer registers and hospital episodes (discharge) statistics. It is also working hard to get health records compiled by GPs since many illnesses like back ache, asthma, diabetes, depression and headache are treated by doctors and do not require hospitalisation.
Watch Professor Cathie Sudlow, UK Biobank’s Chief Scientist presenting an update on health record linkage from the Annual Meeting 2017:
Listen again to Professor Liam Smeeth, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, presenting at the UK Biobank Annual Meeting 2017 on the importance of medical records for research:
Watch this short animation to find out more about linkage to health records in UK Biobank: