Launching the first national immunisation data management system
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, NHS England (NHSE) had no centralised record of immunisation data. The emerging crisis highlighted that a platform was needed to provide data insights to inform key decisions about where to direct the vaccine to save the maximum number of lives possible.
Working with NHSE, our data and analytics experts applied detailed knowledge of NHSE systems and processes to establish a central NHSE COVID-19 immunisation data platform. The platform that our team helped design and launch was NHSE’s first-ever National Immunisation Management System (NIMS).
The NIMS platform ensured stakeholders countrywide had clear, timely and accurate information to make quick decisions in a co-ordinated manner. As the pandemic progressed, the available data became richer and the platform evolved to deliver better insights. Our team played an integral part in developing the tools needed to further enhanced decision making.
The platform’s impact meant that by May 2021, when second jabs were being rolled out, the team had reported on more than 40 million vaccination events.
- Establishing the first NHSE centralised record of immunisation data that acted as a ‘single version of the truth’
- Developing a range of tools that provided insights to support decisions on supply and workforce allocation
- Applying expertise in digital architecture, system design and delivery to bring to life a data system in two months
- Harnessing data insights to inform decision making that resulted in 49 million extra days of second-dose protection
Drawing up a blueprint for success
Data on vaccines administered was typically fed to individual GP practices from settings such as hospitals and schools, and was often weeks old before being collated. A much faster solution incorporating real-time data was required to accelerate and track the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
The team worked fast to create a blueprint for the new system and define the capabilities it would need. To begin with, it needed the ability to extract anonymised details of the millions of people in each Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) priority cohort from GP and other primary care network (PCN) databases around the country. This would be key to enabling GPs to issue invitations to vaccination for their own patients in the right priority order.
The system would also need to be able to generate invitations for appointments at mass vaccination centres and other delivery sites. It needed to be capable of capturing each of the tens of millions of vaccination events, wherever they took place. And it needed a view into the vaccine supply chain to ensure that the right quantity of doses had made it to the right location for the people invited to attend. With disrupted supply chains across the globe due to the pandemic, there was a critical need for accurate data to meet these challenges, which was a key priority for the taskforce.
Creating a flexible planning model
To realise the new data system, the team embarked on a rapid design and delivery phase, bringing capabilities in digital architecture, system design and delivery, business analytics and service design. By September 2020, the brand-new system was ready meaning it had taken around two months to launch instead of the usual six months.
Hard on the heels of this success came the next challenge: getting the system up and running at the thousands of delivery sites across England and onboarding the healthcare workers who would use it there.
Working in tandem with NHS colleagues, we ensured the right IT infrastructure was in place at each site and we launched a rolling programme of webinars to train teams on how to use the system at the point of care.
Securing fair and equitable vaccine access
Over the following months, NIMS became the key source of data for the Government, providing insight into the progress of the vaccine roll-out countrywide. It enabled an agile roll-out that could be flexed as understanding of COVID-19 evolved and priority cohorts were refined to reflect this. It also enabled Public Health England to understand vaccine uptake in different communities and launch initiatives to ensure equitable access.
NIMS was linked to a new national booking system, which our experts also helped to develop. Via the booking system, patients were invited to receive a vaccine at non-PCN locations and were able to book a slot at a time that was convenient for them. Creating a user-centric interface was critical to ensuring people in every community could easily use the system to book a slot.
The pandemic highlighted many challenges to fair and equitable access across communities, which was an issue that remained front of mind while designing our outreach. As this issue of ensuring fair access across all communities came into greater focus, the team developed a model to deliver equality-specific insights. This model identified where uptake was low – particularly in non-white British communities – and allowed NHSE to work with faith leaders to increase the appeal of vaccination to these communities.
A single version of the truth
From the moment the first UK vaccine was administered on the 8 December 2020, there was instant demand for data insights to inform operational and strategic decisions across Government, NHSE, and regional teams. As one of the leading analytics partners for NHSE for the previous four years, our team brought unparalleled insight to the challenge.
Working in tandem with NHSE and other partners, our data and analytics experts drew on their knowledge of systems and processes to establish a central NHSE COVID-19 data platform. Our team started by gathering and interpreting requirements from across the programme, identifying the needs of stakeholders as diverse as the JCVI and regional front-line teams. These needs included monitoring the levels of activity at each site so supply and demand could be measured and tailored according to capacity. The platform was crucial for NHS leaders, allowing them to plan targeted interventions to ensure performance was on track. With shared insight from the centre (based on a ‘single version of the truth’) central and regional stakeholders were able to make effective decisions together.
The first insights tool developed by the team tracked vaccination events, showing the number of vaccines delivered at each delivery hub. This developed steadily into a more sophisticated product, providing insight into progress in vaccinating the eight priority cohorts identified by the JCVI according to age, clinical at-risk state and occupation. The scale of data involved was phenomenal. By the end of December 2020, the team had reported on over 1 million vaccination events. Each event was tracked according to dose, vaccine type, delivery model, cohort, age and location. And thanks to this data, over 80% of the highest priority cohorts had received a first dose by the end of February 2021.
More tools followed, including a tool to track vaccines across the supply chain and another to support decisions on supply allocation. Next came data insights to inform forward workforce planning and to match the allocation of supplies with bookings at individual delivery hubs.
A platform built to last
By May 2021, when second jabs were being rolled out, the team had reported on more than 40 million vaccination events. England was in lockdown again and the Government was grappling with a range of scenarios – aiming to understand how soon restrictions could be eased safely and what impact a shorter gap between first and second vaccinations would have on case and hospitalisation rates. Again, the data platform delivered key insights, distilling complex scenarios into clear visualisations to inform critical policy decisions. For example, the decision to bring forward second doses, which resulted in 49 million extra days of second-dose protection, was informed by insights from the platform.
The data insights from the new platform will help increase the programme’s impact. By enabling better tracking of who is up to date with their jabs and tests, and allowing health professionals to target efforts to increase uptake and improve vaccination programmes in the future. In addition, this data will also provide fresh understanding of population behaviour to inform wider strategies to improve health outcomes for everyone.