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Background: The National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) is currently recommended in the United Kingdom for risk stratification of COVID outcomes, but little is known about its ability to detect severe cases. We aimed to evaluate NEWS2 for severe COVID outcome and identify and validate a set of routinely-collected blood and physiological parameters taken at hospital admission to improve the score. Methods: Training cohorts comprised 1276 patients admitted to King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust with COVID-19 disease from 1st March to 30th April 2020. External validation cohorts included 5037 patients from four UK NHS Trusts (Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals, University Hospitals Southampton, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals), and two hospitals in Wuhan, China (Wuhan Sixth Hospital and Taikang Tongji Hospital). The outcome was severe COVID disease (transfer to intensive care unit or death) at 14 days after hospital admission. Age, physiological measures, blood biomarkers, sex, ethnicity and comorbidities (hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases) measured at hospital admission were considered in the models. Results: A baseline model of 'NEWS2 + age' had poor-to-moderate discrimination for severe COVID infection at 14 days (AUC in training sample = 0.700; 95% CI: 0.680, 0.722; Brier score = 0.192; 95% CI: 0.186, 0.197). A supplemented model adding eight routinely-collected blood and physiological parameters (supplemental oxygen flow rate, urea, age, oxygen saturation, CRP, estimated GFR, neutrophil count, neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio) improved discrimination (AUC = 0.735; 95% CI: 0.715, 0.757) and these improvements were replicated across five UK and non-UK sites. However, there was evidence of miscalibration with the model tending to underestimate risks in most sites. Conclusions: NEWS2 score had poor-to-moderate discrimination for medium-term COVID outcome which raises questions about its use as a screening tool at hospital admission. Risk stratification was improved by including readily available blood and physiological parameters measured at hospital admission, but there was evidence of miscalibration in external sites. This highlights the need for a better understanding of the use of early warning scores for COVID.

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