The work started just over a year ago when inhaled budesonide was being trialled as a treatment for COVID-19. Knowing that, if approved, the treatment would need to be implemented quickly, NHS England asked us to begin work on a solution to support this.
Trials for inhaled budesonide were inconclusive as a COVID-19 treatment so our technology wasn’t needed as quickly as first thought. Soon after though, multiple types of monoclonal antibodies and antivirals came along as possible treatments for non-hospitalised patients and that's about the time that I joined the programme last August.
I've worked within the NHS for more than 13 years, and with programme teams for the majority of my career. The work was closely aligned to what I was already doing in COVID Oximetry@home, which is an NHS service to monitor patients with COVID symptoms in their own home or care home.
The scope of work for COVID Therapeutics was directed by NHS England and my role was to oversee every aspect of us fulfilling that. NHS England required us to provide digital services to support 3 different workstreams:
1. The targeted deployment of monoclonal antibodies and antivirals to those patients at highest risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19
2. The PANORAMIC trial to help find effective early treatments for COVID-19
3. The wider deployment of antivirals in the community following successful clinical trials and a change to the clinical commissioning policy.
Making sure we had the right expertise meant gathering colleagues across NHS Digital's Platforms and Data directorates, consultants from our partner organisation BJSS (a technology and engineering consultancy), expert clinical leads, and information governance specialists to name just a few.
Many of the team had already been working on the Risk Stratification programme, who were brought together in May 2020 to create a way of predicting the risk posed to individuals from COVID-19. So the knowledge and skills available within the team was vast and incredibly well placed for the challenges that lay ahead.