UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


COVID-19 Studies

PPP are currently leading and partnering on a variety of research projects aimed primarily at better understanding the secondary impacts of Covid-19 on children and families.


You-COPE is a longitudinal cohort study tracking health and wellbeing amongst 16-24 year olds in the UK during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aiming to understand the specific impacts on this age group of the national response to COVID-19. We are capturing disruptions to various domains including housing, training and income and tracking physical and mental health through the ‘lockdown’ and thereafter in order to inform national health and education policy. Question topics include mental health and wellbeing, mental health disorders and treatments, social connectedness and loneliness, sleep, sexual health, eating behaviours, substance use and alcohol, physical health, COVID-19 symptoms and anxiety, demographics, socioeconomic status, education and employment and housing. We are recruited young people through multiple channels, including word of mouth, personal contacts and professional networks; anyone aged 16-24 years old in the UK is eligible to take part if they can access the internet to do so. We are following up with a smaller subset of measures every 2 weeks at first, and then, later, monthly until after the end of the main pandemic public health response period in the UK.

In any circumstances, mothers face many challenges around infant feeding. Important issues include whether they can afford to take time off work, and what kinds of support are available from professional sources and other family members within and beyond the immediate household. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown policies have profoundly impacted these dynamics. Mothers may be experiencing changed family circumstances within the household, reduced financial income, and reduced access to wider family and professional help. Our anonymous online survey aims to improve understanding of mothers' experience during this difficult time. We aim to identify how COVID-19 is impacting infant feeding practices, which groups are most affected, and which are least able to access relevant support. We will share this information with relevant organisations that provide support for maternal health, wellbeing and breast-feeding. 

This project is about everyday life in the midst of a pandemic. The study team are working with their partners, Born in Bradford, a cohort study aiming to reduce health inequalities, to examine the social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 on family life with young children.

  • Downs Syndrome and COVID -19: An international study to determine whether the risk and course of COVID-19 in people with Down Syndrome (DS) are associated with their pre- existing conditions

People with Down syndrome (DS), caused by trisomy 21, have many co-occurring conditions beyond intellectual disability, that may increase their risk for COVID-19 or its progression. For example, their immune system compromises their ability to fight respiratory infections. This might also be true for viral infections, but there is no literature that addresses this question. Our international survey study proposes to collect anonymous data from families and clinicians who are caring for people with DS affected with COVID-19 to identify specific risk factors based on co-occurring conditions and to determine whether disease progression is associated with these pre-existing conditions. This study will be done at an international level and is undertaken in association with the Trisomy 21 Research Society (T21RS).

Led by: Trisomy 21 Research Society Taskforce. Child Health UK Key investigator Professor Monica Lakhanpaul

  • Parent’s help seeking for, and care of, a sick or injured child during Covid-19 pandemic Stay Home period.

The aim of the study is to find out what impact the Stay Home period (lock down) is having or has had on parent’s actions and decision when caring for, or seeking help for, a sick or injured child. The findings aim to help us learn from parents’ experiences and direct the development of support for parents with a sick or injured child in the future.  This survey has now been further extended to Rotterdam.

Led by: Chief Investigator Sarah Neill Plymouth, and Rachel Carter Co-I Professor Monica Lakhanpaul on behalf of the ASK SNIFF consortium

  • Mental health and wellbeing in context of COVID-19 and beyond            

National data show that COVID-19 is causing high levels of anxiety and impacting wellbeing in nearly half of the population (ONS Survey). Such figures are likely to be significantly higher for patients at GOSH and their families, as well as staff at the hospital. In response, GOSH has put wellbeing at the heart of its COVID response. This project aims to build upon a previous grant funded project evaluating a drop-in mental health booth at GOSH. Specifically it aims to evaluate the impact of a stepped-care approach to the provision of evidence-based interventions for mental health and wellbeing of GOSH patients and their families during COVID-19. Patients and family members will be made aware of mental health and wellbeing provision that is accessible via the existing mental health drop-in centre (‘Lucy Booth’) that can provide remote support. Standardised assessments and evidence-based stepped care interventions will be provided. The data collected will be compared to existing data from a three-year GOSH CC funded project (‘The Lucy Project’) that evaluated a self-referral mental health and wellbeing drop-in centre from January – December 2019. This will allow us to benchmark mental health and wellbeing provision during COVID-19 against provision of such input prior to the crisis. We will also be able to benchmark the mental health of our patients against national data. Information collected will allow for a sustainable, effective mental health and wellbeing provision for the duration of the COVID-19 and recovery period.         
Led by: Professor Roz Shafran

The ‘Lucy Project’: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychological-medicine/

  • Short and long term impacts of school closures, or other isolation measures in childhood, on physical and mental health  

The UK has implemented school closures (for most children) as part of national social distancing efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The potential benefits of school closures need to be considered alongside any potential harms, both economically and directly for children and families over the short- and long-term, as well as the broader political context. In a recent systematic review, we demonstrated that the evidence is currently limited and unclear as to the effectiveness of school closures for containing corona virus outbreaks (Viner et al, 2020; DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30095-X). There are suggestions of potential wide reaching harms for children from school closures, especially if school closures persist over a prolonged period. This includes impacts on physical and mental health, wellbeing and health-related behaviours (especially physical activity, diet, use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, perpetration or victimisation of violence).  It is also likely that children will be differentially affected, with some children (likely vulnerable children and those from more deprived backgrounds) particularly at risk. Therefore, in this systematic review, we will examine the impact of school closures on a range of child outcomes, over both the short and longer term, and whether these impacts are moderated by child/ school/ country characteristics. 
Led by: Professor Russell Viner

Assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable children              

During the C-19 Lockdown, the limited access to support from health, social care and education services, and the effects of household confinement are challenging for everyone, but particularly for children and young people who are already vulnerable, due to social welfare or chronic health needs. Our study will assess the impact of the pandemic on these vulnerable children, firstly by identifying different groups of vulnerability, and then by quantifying the risks of acute health outcomes for these groups. This could be due to missed appointments for chronic health conditions, loss of education support or threats to safety. Our results will inform local services of the key characteristics, and estimated numbers, of children who may need extra support to recover from the long term effects of the pandemic.

Led by: Professor Ruth Gilbert

  • Coronavirus Experiences Study: Understanding the experiences of coronavirus in Imagine-ID families

In England, there are over a million people with learning disabilities, a quarter of whom are children of school age. The IMAGINE-ID programme of research, funded by the Medical Research Council from 2015 until 2024, has recruited 3,402 UK children aged 5 to 18 years old with ID due to a genetic cause. We discovered that IMAGINE-ID children have a far greater risk of physical, behavioural and emotional problems than typically developing children. Approximately half the cohort meet criteria for a mental health disorder, and 40% have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The Coronavirus pandemic poses unique challenges to this group, as families are shielding vulnerable children. Media reports have suggested the pandemic is more unsettling for children with autism than typically developing children. However, anecdotal reports speak of unexpected benefits for some autistic children during lockdown, such as reduced pressure on having to socialise. We aim to understand the experiences of IMAGINE-ID families during the pandemic using online questionnaires and interviews with a subset of families. We will recruit equally sized sample of families with and without an autistic child. We aim to interview families at two time points. First, during the extended period of shielding for families of vulnerable children (August 2020). Second, approximately 6 months later. This approach will be used to identify areas of difficulty and resilience during the pandemic and de-confinement. We will also compare the experiences of children who have autism with those who do not, in order to understand the unique challenges experienced by the families of children with autism.

Led by: Dr Jeanne Wolstencroft

Overview of current ICH Covid-19 research projects