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NHS's UK Covid Test Reporting system

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

QS build and deliver in 3 days!

The need for testing Covid-19 patients, staff and support workers prompted the UK government to set the ambitious target of 100,000 tests each day by the end of April 2020. This was only the start and more ambitious plans were already underway to significantly increase that number.

Getting those daily results collated, integrated and delivered on time was a real challenge.

NHS England opted for QUIQSOLUTIONS as the answer

Whilst the actual tests presented their own difficulties, bringing together the critical data they produced and making it available to the right people fast enough was also a real issue.

“The NHS response to Covid-19 testing had to be mobilised at an unprecedented scale and speed,” commented Nicola Hunt, NHS England’s national lead for the Covid-19 Testing Cell.

“We needed to set up a new daily collection of data from dozens of laboratories around England.”

Testing locations including laboratories and specialist services had to report on current testing activity and capacity daily, with regional responses organised into 29 networks monitored by Pathology Incident Directors (PIDs).

Daily spreadsheets were being emailed from laboratories to the central NHS England and NHS Improvement team but were taking hours of manual work to compile and collate against very tight deadlines and without any audit trail or means of validation.

For a project of such importance it was clear a better solution was needed.

“After early implementation with an Excel template we realised we needed something more efficient and that gave rise to PLACERS.” Nicola Hunt, NHS England

PLACERS, (Pathology Laboratory Activity & Capacity Electronic Returns System), is based on QUIQSOLUTIONS’ cloud platform, and was quickly identified as the ideal solution.

NHS England already worked with QUIQSOLUTIONS in the Continuing Health Care arena, where every CCG in England has used the CHAT tool for NHS England reporting since 2016. Whilst not the same requirement, the principal was, and NHS England contacted QUIQSOLUTIONS to see if we could help.

“We needed a solution and we needed it fast,” remarked Paul Gavin, Programme Director, Covid-19 Testing Cell. “From work we had done previously with QUIQSOLUTIONS, we knew they could build and deliver this type of system quickly.”

QUIQSOLUTIONS provided an implementation roadmap the same day, and specified the information we needed to get the system up and working.

Within 24 hours a live prototype was in place being used around 20 external Laboratories.

Two days later testing locations were submitting live data through PLACERS in parallel to the daily spreadsheet return. Daily calls between NHS England and PIDs confirmed the Laboratory users were keen to use PLACERS instead of the spreadsheet, even suggesting additional data that could be included.

PLACERS ran in parallel for 3 more days, fine-tuning the data requirements, checking the technical reports, and confirming user access details.

PLACERS went live in mid-April, just a couple of weeks after the initial consultation, covering 130 testing locations, 29 networks, 150 NHS trusts and hundreds of daily users. Data from PLACERS is supplied to central government who use it to monitor actual infection rates and the effectiveness of their expansion program for Covid-19 testing.

“It was a push. A large and very public project against very tight timescales.” Says Neal Moores of QUIQSOLUTIONS. “We knew we had a rock solid technical solution, but we still needed a strategy to engage hundreds of users who had never seen the system, who then had to use it for critical reporting the very next morning”.

QUIQSOLUTIONS strategy was to create user video training and quick start files aimed specifically at each role in the process, and then to target each of the stakeholders with only the help they needed for their particular task, defined by their login.

“It worked really well. We could see from the website traffic the videos were being heavily used. Labs had 8am deadlines so we offered round the clock support, but actually had surprisingly few calls. We proactively monitored the system alongside the NHS team and could see that submissions were being made on time.”

PLACERS went live within 7 days, and became the keystone mechanism for reporting the testing data everyone became so familiar with on the 5pm government briefings.

QUIQSOLUTIONS, working with NHSX and McKinsey, have now fully integrated PLACERS into the NHS systems, providing direct integration files, eradicating manual intervention, and enabling the ongoing Testing results process.

Martin Ware, Senior Delivery Manager, Covid-19 Testing Cell, added, “We went from zero to implemented solution in just a few days. There are have been a number of developments and refinements since. QUIQSOLUTIONS essentially delivered in days, a project that would have normally taken months to specify and implement.”

QUIQSOLUTIONS demonstrated considerable professionalism and versatility. Using the power of the cloud platform, a complex logistical issue was resolved in a very challenging timeframe.

“PLACERS is now providing a valuable role in ‘Testing’, a key element to how the country is responding to this pandemic.” Paul Gavin, NHS Programme Director, Covid-19 Testing Cell.

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