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NHS Digital’s Chief Executive, Sarah Wilkinson, has been named as one of the Global Top 100 Data Visionaries by HotTopics.
The power list celebrates those who have harnessed the power of data within their organisation or industry.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Sarah has led NHS Digital to help the NHS manage its response to the virus, by ensuring fast access to accurate data, supporting research projects with deep data analysis and expertise and ensuring that rich data visualisation has given exerts access to data that they can use to swiftly understand the progression of the pandemic.
NHS Digital’s work has helped to identify the additional risks of coronavirus for people from a BAME background; to identify a drug which can help those seriously ill with the disease; to map cases across the country using 111 data and; to design and run the Shielded Patients List, which identifies those who are most clinically vulnerable to coronavirus.
Sarah said: “NHS Digital holds a privileged and critical role at the centre of the health and care system, as the national custodian of clinical data and the independent producer of most our official national statistics for the system.
“This data has extraordinary value, the NHS being one of the largest unified healthcare providers in the world. It is both very exciting and a huge responsibility to understand that there are so many insights available through investigation of this data that we have not yet identified. I’m inspired by the work that has been done within our organisation in recent years, and am thrilled to receive this recognition on behalf of the many brilliant and dedicated staff in NHS Digital.”
Study to examine increased risk of coronavirus on patients from ethnic minorities
Working with Cambridge University and the University of California, NHS Digital has provided data expertise to support a study that examined the increased risk of Covid-19 on patients from ethnic minorities.
By being able to link data across five different datasets NHS Digital was able to allow the researchers to show that people from a black and ethnic minority (BAME) background were more likely to be admitted to hospital and intensive care with coronavirus, compared to the general population of England.
Predicting the need for ICU beds and ventilators
NHS Digital data scientists have also worked with the University of Cambridge on trialling a system that uses machine learning to help predict the need for intensive care beds and ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients.
The Capacity Planning and Analysis System (CPAS) used data from Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital to predict how many patients might need to be admitted to ICU, how many might require ventilators and also their estimated stay in hospital and ICU.
In addition to the work done with Cambridge University, NHS Digital has been involved in two key data projects with Oxford University.
Identifying new treatments
Data from NHS Digital’s Secondary Uses Service (SUS+) was used to help with the Covid-19 recovery trials, which identified the steroid dexamethasone as being able to reduce deaths in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 by a third earlier this month.
Identifying those at highest clinical risk
More recently a new data-driven risk prediction model has been worked on by NHS Digital and Oxford University to help identify those at higher threat of serious illness from coronaviruses to help the NHS support these patients during this and any future outbreaks.
Visualising data to track the pandemic
During the Covid-19 pandemic, NHS Digital has made more of its data visually available through the introduction of new data dashboards. This includes making data from NHS Pathways, 111 online and the NHS e-Referral Service publicly available for the first time.
Shielded Patients List
NHS Digital has developed and managed the Shielded Patients List, identifying those that are most clinically vulnerable to coronavirus through the data that is held by the organisation and enabling partner organisations across government to support and protect those who needed to shield.
Using data to improve clinical care
Finally, NHS Digital has helped to improve clinical care through better data sharing during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have introduced GP Connect to all GP practices, allowing for patient records to be shared across primary care. This means that emergency doctors can still access information vital to a patient’s care even if they aren’t using the same GP system as the patient’s regular GP.
In addition to this, additional information has been added to patient’s Summary Care Records to give clinicians access to a person’s wider medical history more quickly when needed to give direct care.