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Coronavirus: Bradford University graduates rework NHS portals

Media design & technology graduates from university’s Working Academy are helping the NHS in Bradford manage patients and clinicians

Developers and designers from the University of Bradford’s Working Academy have delivered a number of NHS applications to help hospitals in Bradford manage the coronavirus pandemic.

Simon Couth, head of the Working Academy, who works closely with the university’s faculty of engineering & informatics, said the work had been completed in record time.

“During normal times, web app development would take three to four months,” he said. “We have completed the hospital ‘extranet’ C-ARE project in just three weeks.”

The C-ARE (Crisis-assess/response/escalate) project, which has gone live today (9 April), is an extranet for existing staff who are being moved to critical departments such as accident & emergency and intensive care. The extranet has also been designed to support dozens of new staff joining the NHS in Bradford as part of the national response to the coronavirus.

The Working Academy said the new system creates an “access anywhere” site offering crucial information to new NHS starters and those switching roles, giving them clear information on where to go on their first day, where to get PPE (personal protective equipment), contact numbers and standard operating procedures. 

“Previously, this information would have had to be accessed on an intranet from a computer in the hospital building,” said Couth. “We have made that information accessible to NHS staff before they start work, providing essential information so they can hit the ground running.”

The system also offers a “mini facebook” chat room for NHS staff.

Maulik Gandhi, an orthopaedic consultant and NHS “clinical entrepreneur”, who was involved in commissioning the project, said: “We approached the University of Bradford to help us with the mass on-boarding of staff. The objective was, we need to train people and upskill others into new roles they might not be familiar with. During normal times, when you start a new job, you get an induction. At present, we do not have that time. We want to get as many people as possible ready for clinical care.”

In his role as an NHS clinical entrepreneur, Gandhi said he has already had several conversations with colleagues in other trusts and national clinical bodies with a view to the Bradford system being used elsewhere.

Read more about the NHS and coronavirus

  • As the pandemic grows and creates enormous pressure on the health service, NHS organisations across the country are using technology to help cope.
  • With the risk of the Covid-19 virus spreading, NHS Digital has needed to make rapid changes to its 111 service.

Another project for the Working Academy involved the overhaul of the Saltaire & Windhill Medical Partnership’s GP website. Access to online services on the original site was complicated for patients, and the Working Academy revamped it to make it more responsive to patients wanting to engage online.

The third project, developed in conjunction with consultant cardiologists from Bradford Royal Infirmary, is an online portal called Bradford Angina Service. The portal  aims to reduce, or remove entirely, the need for patients to attend appointments in person.

Consultant cardiologist Paul Sainsbury, from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The site is designed for a certain cohort of patients with a very difficult form of angina and there are only three services across the UK that deal with it – Liverpool, Bradford and London – so there is a great geographical inequality in access to the service. Having it online increases its availability.”

Alastair Wood, associate dean of external relations at the university’s faculty of engineering & informatics, said the projects showed how the faculty’s students can engage rapidly and effectively to deliver real-world solutions to real-word problems that benefit health and wellbeing and the wider community.

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