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Strep A GP data helped ICB track service pressures during winter outbreak



A new, automated GP dataset created to track daily presentations for Strep A proved ‘revolutionary’ for Kent & Medway ICB to help understand service pressures and inform resilience plans during the winter 2022/23 outbreak.

Using the APEX analytics toolkit, the ICB was for the first time able to present an evidence-based picture of the impact of the outbreak on its 185 GP practices – allowing the general practice picture to be assessed alongside its community and acute partners.

The new dataset was introduced by primary care analytics provider Edenbridge Healthcare, part of EMIS Group, to help NHS organisations manage the additional winter pressures caused by the Strep A outbreak.

The data was curated via the APEX toolkit by collating data collected routinely by GPs to record patients presenting with relevant conditions, such as chest infections, acute bacterial laryngitis and acute lower respiratory tract infection for children under five years old.

The toolkit generated daily automatic reports based on these conditions for the ICB.

Ruth Wells, Assistant Director Health Outcomes, Improvement & Performance at Kent & Medway, said: “Previously when we’d been in the middle of any kind of outbreak, we would have challenges in presenting primary care data when round the table with other partners.

“Historically all we could report is that ‘GP practices are telling us they’re really busy’.  This was the first time we could substantiate that and share our own data.  It was a revolutionary moment for us.”

APEX is a primary care analytics tool that enables practices and organisations to better understand demand, capacity and activity – driving efficiency and quality improvements.

The Strep A outbreak was the first time the platform has proactively created a dataset for customers.

Usually, primary care organisations create their own search terms across GP information systems.

Ben Hampshire, Head of Business Delivery at APEX, said: “After witnessing first-hand the pressures the COVID-19 pandemic placed on primary care, it was clear in the data trends from late October and November that a new respiratory outbreak had the potential to do the same again.

“We were really keen to enable primary care to be on the front foot and see this data in near-real-time to support effective decision-making, in the hope that better planning could be made to avoid crippling pressures on the system.

“The user response to our new reporting functionality was extremely positive – use of the Code Analysis Report alone in the product increased by 96 per cent month-on-month from November to December 2022.

“Some areas used the data to quickly establish respiratory hubs – moving demand away from GP practices – and provided funding packages for practices, while for others like Kent & Medway the data formed part of an integrated picture and response to keep their finger on the pulse.

“This is a powerful example of how readily available data from the GP electronic record can be mobilised to change what’s happening on the frontline.”

Kent & Medway ICB serves a population of 1.9m people.

All its 185 GP practices have access to the Apex system following a decision to invest across the region to enable demand monitoring and workforce and productivity improvements.

Wells said: “APEX is a really valuable tool for a commissioner.

“Following the Strep A success, and Kent and Medway‘s work on demand and capacity to date, NHS England has asked us to work with them to develop a demand management toolkit for other organisations.

“This will support the roll out, implementation and use of a demand and capacity tool such as APEX.

“Other parts of the ICB will be using the system, too, including the estates and workforce teams.

“We will also be having conversations with our community and acute providers to ask them what reporting they need from us – APEX can provide reporting, analytics and intelligence across a wide range of opportunities. “

Hampshire  added: “We are committed to working with frontline practitioners and commissioners to explore how this example can be replicated in multiple scenarios to support ongoing system-wide resilience.”

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