With the coronavirus pandemic driving an enhanced need for data and intelligence, NHS England and NHS Improvement needed a timely and accurate way to record patient deaths.
With a successful track record of building, deploying and hosting bespoke applications, Arden & GEM worked closely with key stakeholders to develop a central system in just five days.
The COVID-19 patient notification system (CPNS) provides vital information in a simple and standardised format to underpin national death analysis and support organisations to make informed decisions.
As part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, organisations needed to rapidly understand the spread of the disease so that they could make informed plans and decisions.
A crucial piece of information was the number of COVID-19 related deaths taking place in hospitals. Finding a definitive source for the daily reporting of deaths was key.
As a temporary measure, providers were using a manual data return spreadsheet to record deaths over email. The NHS Chief Executive’s Office wanted to replace this with a timely and accurate system as quickly as possible and approached Arden & GEM’s Data and Systems team, with its successful track record of building, deploying and hosting similar applications – including a reporting tool for deaths in custodial settings.
By bringing together development, user support, data management and reporting expertise from within its business intelligence service, the CSU was able to quickly define system needs and begin development.
Rapid discovery sessions
The project team needed to establish the system requirements at pace and achieved this by setting up a series of rapid discovery sessions with key stakeholders including NHS England and NHS Improvement, Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) teams, and representatives from the national Incident Coordination Centre (ICC). The sessions identified key functionality and outputs.
Utilising agile project methodology and an iterative development process, daily progress was shared with a defined group, incorporating feedback and amendments after each showcase session.
The application was built using a web form which can be accessed on any internet connected device, with the majority of fields auto-filled once the appropriate NHS number has been entered, reducing data entry errors and improving data quality.
Before go-live, comprehensive end-to-end user acceptance testing was undertaken with representatives from the national ICC, EPRR teams and NHS England.
To ensure security, the system is hosted within Arden & GEM’s robust application and data warehouse environment while the user registration process is managed through NHS Improvement using OKTA authentication.
All entries are validated at both a regional and national level to corroborate notifications.
A week after system go-live, a further user group was onboarded as a new contract, to make private provider capacity available to the NHS, started.
The system has now been rolled out to:
- over 1,600 users
- from 675 organisations.
Following launch of the CPNS, the development team held daily engagement calls with the client to ensure that everything was working as desired and that evolving requirements were being met.
As a result of these feedback sessions, the system has been continually enhanced by introducing:
- further rules-based validation to improve data quality
- new fields to extend reporting capabilities, for example capturing staff deaths
- additional functionality, such as graphs to show users which entries still need validating.
Our Data and Systems team developed and implemented the CPNS in just five days. This was followed by a period of daily stakeholder engagement to improve and extend functionality to meet evolving need.
The bespoke application has reduced the reporting burden on busy providers, enabling them to provide information in a simple and standardised format. Not only does the use of autofill and rules-based validation simplify the task for users but it also improves data quality for reporting.
In addition to providing a definitive source for the daily reporting of hospital deaths, the CPNS also provides a live reporting stream to support national organisations – including EPPR teams, the ICC, the NHS Chief Executive’s Office and Public Health England – to understand disease spread and make informed decisions in the fight against COVID-19.
"The development of the CPNS has been a tremendous effort by a fantastic team. Capturing timely, accurate and comprehensive data on COVID-related deaths has been of vital importance in building our understanding of the impact and necessary response to the pandemic across the NHS in England. The team have worked tirelessly to build a robust system, enabling the collection of rich, high quality data, with extremely timely reporting. A brilliant effort that has been hugely appreciated by all of us at NHS England."
Rob Stones, Director of Performance, Chief Operating Officer’s Directorate at NHS England
Engagement has also taken place with regional ICCs and CCGs to ensure that reporting can help them to understand and plan for the impact on the local community. Learnings continue to be collated and applied in preparation for potential future waves.