Woman wearing a face mask, sheltering during the COVID-19 pandemic

NHS Digital: Supporting data-driven care during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the UK in March 2020, the government created the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service (CEVPS). The service was designed to help protect the shielding population by providing essential supplies, medicine deliveries, preferential access to supermarket delivery slots, and in some cases, emergency support.

NHS Digital logo

It was established at extraordinary speed, harnessing the combined expertise of the NHS, government departments and the private sector. As a key foundational element of the CEVPS, NHS Digital (NHSD) developed the Shielded Patient List (SPL) for England. This involved combining GP records and diverse datasets that were normally only used in trend analysis, but which would now be used to identify a cohort of at-risk patients.

Expert, pro bono support

Setting up the SPL was a matter of extreme urgency, and NHSD called upon Scott Logic to offer expert advice on this data challenge. With our Social Mission being key to who we are as a business, we were proud to provide pro bono support for the migration strategy and implementation. We assigned two of our most senior and experienced Solutions Architects to the project.

They quickly set about supporting the NHSD team in its efforts to migrate a legacy data pipeline to a strategic data platform – Databricks – designed to deploy and manage the data securely and efficiently. The initial role of our consultants was to analyse a segment of the existing pipeline and prototype the migration of a list of the most vulnerable patients.

Contending with system immaturity

By the time our consultants were onboarded, the data analytics platform for the project had already been selected. It was at a relatively early stage in its rollout when the pandemic hit. With their combined wealth of experience in data engineering projects of this kind, our Solutions Architects were able to offer guidance and advice on how to make the platform work for practical use cases.

It soon became clear to them that the project’s main challenge to tackle wasn't so much at the code level but in supporting NHSD to identify a suitable migration strategy, assemble the right team, and then manage the migration process.

Government COVID-19 guidance

Delivery within regulatory constraints

Project delivery at pace within the highly regulated environment of the NHS was understandably a complex undertaking. While the government’s introduction of Control of Patient Information notices in March 2020 permitted the sharing of confidential patient information in specific circumstances, many areas of regulatory and technical complexity remained.

At Scott Logic, we have a rich heritage of supporting organisations in highly regulated sectors, such as financial services and the public sector. As a result, our consultants were able to acclimatise quickly to the constraints within which they were working, and deliver at speed.

Tackling edge cases and deployment issues

Thank You NHS written on blue post box

When you’re creating a service designed to address the unique needs of vulnerable people, edge cases cannot be ignored. To add to the complexity, the project inevitably encountered a range of deployment issues given the diverse nature of the data sources and the immaturity of the platform. Our consultants helped NHSD to tackle these challenges through innovative technical solutions and enhanced ways of working.

Once the SPL was live, we continued to support NHSD with the improvement of the service, migrating more of the pipeline incrementally following the same process. Given the temporary nature of the engagement, our consultants made sure to embed these new approaches, checks and testing procedures within the team so that they could continue to manage the data in a way that was secure, safe and scalable until the service was no longer required.

Become the face of public sector technology 

Wherever you look, some emerging technology is creating an opportunity for progress. Why shouldn’t the public sector be able to claim some of those wins? And why couldn’t you be the face of one? 

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