NHS partners with tech giants to develop Covid-19 data platform

NHS England and NHSX are working with tech giants to develop a data platform to better inform the national response to coronavirus.

Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google have been be drafted in to help the NHS ensure the platform is secure, as have Palantir Technologies, a UK-based data processing company and Faculty, a London-based AI specialist.

The platform connects the Government and other national organisations responsible for coordinating the UK’s response to “secure, reliable and timely data”, NHSX chief Matthew Gould wrote in a blog post.

The platform, hosted on NHS Futures, brings together multiple NHS and social care data sets into a single location. It will include data such as 111 online and call centre data from NHS Digital, as well as Covid-19 test result data from Public Health England.

It would inform on current occupancy levels at hospitals; current capacity of A&E departments and wait times; and lengths of stay for coronavirus patients.

Data will then be “integrated, cleaned and harmonised” into a single information source.

“The results will be presented as dashboards that give a live view of the metrics needed to track and understand the current spread of the crisis, and the capacity in the healthcare system to deal with it,” Gould wrote.

“These metrics will be able to be analysed from the national level down to individual NHS Trusts and hospitals. With an accurate view of these metrics in place, the data allows decision-makers to answer questions about the response and explore the impact of different decisions.

“This will lead to a better understanding of how the virus is spreading, when and where the healthcare system will face strain, and which interventions can best mitigate the crisis.”

A beta version of the dashboard would be launched in the week beginning 30 March, he added.

It comes as GPs were asked to flag vulnerable patients at greater risk of the virus as central NHS datasets are “not sophisticated enough” to identify all groups.

Vulnerable patients, including those with underlying health conditions and the elderly, are currently being notified to stay at home for 12 weeks as a preventative measure during the Covid-19 outbreak.

But the letter to GPs from NHS England acknowledges that databases held by NHS England are not extensive enough to identify every at-risk patient.

Confidentiality

Control of the data will remain with NHS England and Improvement, with strict anonymity controls in place, Gould confirmed.

“While moving at speed, essential data governance procedures and established principles of openness and transparency remain at the core of everything we do. We are following the same rules for information governance that underpin our day-to-day work,” he wrote.

“All the data in the data store is anonymous, subject to strict controls that meet the requirements of data protection legislation and ensure that individuals cannot be re-identified.

“The controls include removing identifiers such as name and address and replacing these with a pseudonym. GDPR principles will be followed, for example the data will only be used for Covid-19 and not for any other purpose and only relevant information will be collected.”

Requests to view the data will be reviewed on an individual basis by NHS England and NHSX.

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