Enabling care homes to share capacity and issues
At the forefront of our efforts has been the Capacity
Tracker; our award winning web-based application originally
sponsored by the North East and Yorkshire Region of NHS England, and
further developed in partnership with NHSE Community Services and
Analytics, local authorities and care home providers themselves. The
Capacity Tracker has been able to provide up-to-date, real-time
central view on capacity and current issues facing the care home
sector. In March, the government issued guidance requiring all care
homes, hospices and providers of inpatient community rehabilitation to
start the using the Capacity Tracker.
The functionality of the Capacity Tracker has expanded significantly,
now recording coronavirus infectoions, workforce status, PPE
requirements as well as bed vacancies. Having played a vital role in
helping NHS Trusts to accelerate safe patient discharge, freeing up
capacity in the acute sector ahead of the anticipated surge in
patients with coronavirus, it went on to help social care response
teams, including councils and local resilience forums, to target their
support based on the needs of care home providers. More than 16,000
care homes in England are now registered on the system – more than 99%
of all care homes!
Supporting the deployment of people into essential roles
During the pandemic, we were commissioned to develop and implement an
automated ‘Deployment Hub’ to facilitate the placement of staff from a
range of NHS organisations, including NECS, CCGs and General
Practices, across the system into essential covid-19 support roles.
More than one hundred deployment requests have been made to the hub
which has seen more than 400 staff deployments. Almost a quarter of
these have been from NECS’ clinical teams who have undertaken a wide
variety of crucial nursing and pharmacy assignments in Foundation
Trusts and Care Homes across the North East and North Cumbria.
A NECS employee who was a former neonatal intensive care unit
manager, was one of those who volunteered to be redeployed. She said:
“I’ve always been passionate about nursing, ever since I qualified in
1988, and when the pandemic hit I knew I needed to help.”
After a half day training webinar covering adult parameters had
brought her up to speed, she was straight onto the ward.
“The team has appreciated my help which has been lovely. When I first
started a nurse asked me where I worked, and I explained I worked at
NECS supporting CCGs. I was bemused because her reaction was ‘wow and
you want to come and help us?’. These front line staff don’t realise
how significant a role they play every day and I found the nurses
attitudes really humbling.
“As I start 14 days of isolation, just to ensure I’m not putting
anyone at risk, I have started reflecting on the experience and I
think we take a lot of things for granted. Seeing it in the news is
one thing but seeing the reality has been something else. It’s made me
appreciate all the little things and I’m confident there will be some
learning for the future.”
Clinical System Migrations in lockdown
The outbreak of COVID-19 has necessitated a major change in how our
Team deliver GP practice clinical system migrations.
The risk of infection and the need to protect our people, the
practice staff and patients forced the team to innovate and adapt,
particularly when tasked to project manage two GP clinical system
mergers with one migration across Derbyshire as well as two GP merges
and the continuation of two GP clinical system migrations in the North East.
With smart card access and the deployment of Microsoft Teams and
greater utilisation of Cisco WebEx, NECS colleagues managed to develop
a complete remote support package, creating new processes to provide
minimal impact on the customers and to maintain clinical safety.
The communication platform with screen share functionality and the
support of all parties involved, limited the impact of COVID-19 to
ensure the successful completion of the migration and mergers.
Using video consultation as an effective alternative
As a result of COVID-19, it has been essential to make significant
changes to the way primary care services are delivered in order to
reduce the spread of infection and comply with social distancing and
The option for clinicians to holdvideo consultations, as an
alternative to face-to-face contact, has been crucial . Consequently,
there has been an urgent demand for video consultation capability to
be rolled out across primary care. Our ICT Programmes
and Projects Team implemented a digital-first approach in
primary care, with General Practitioners able to protect the safety of
paients and their staff whilst maintaining quality of care.
Digital First – Offering remote consultations instead of face
to face (In response to a request from the Secretary of State for
Health and Care, Matt Hancock, to adopt a digital-first approach in
primary care to improve the experience of both patients and clinicians
by using digital technology, GP practices across the North East &
Cumbria were required to implement full video consultation
availability status by 17th April 2020)
Within an ambitious timeframe of five days, every GP practice in the
North East & Cumbria region (371 practices) were fully enabled to
deliver video consultations. Software was installed via a link and
existing devices used where possible, some additional cameras and
software drivers were required in some instances. To achieve the April
17th deadline, most work was completed over a five day period.
Providing timely access to a patient’s electronic medical records
A priority has been sustaining primary care services and continuing
to provide the best possible care to patients during the pandemic.
This has required new ways of delivering services to those who needed
it most for example enabling patients to access a network of GPs and
other healthcare professionals, irrespective of their registered GP practice.
To make to make this as safe as possible we have had to fined a way
for the clinician to have timely access to the patient’s electronic
medical record, regardless of the registered practice’s native
clinical system; something which traditionally has not been possible.
The ICT Programmes
and Projects Team worked with Primary Care Network (PCN) Leads
to discuss options available to them, and further engagement
identified additional support requirements to cover all scenarios.
Solutions for System Integration were discussed, agreed and
implemented within a 1 week timeframe to 206 GP Practices within 5 CCGs.
A high volume of calls were made to PCN Leads during which
discussions were had around the solutions that could be deployed
quickly, and with minimal impact to GP practice staff. Solutions
offered were: Use of EMIS Switcher, Cross System working with
installation of EMIS Web on 40 PCs across a number of SystmOne practices.
To supplement solutions, 60 online training sessions were made
available to practices across the North East, the subject of which
were inclusive of: EMIS to EMIS FAQs, TPP SystmOne to TPP SystmOne
FAQs, EMIS Introduction – Clinical Users, EMIS Introduction –
Administrators, TPP SystmOne Introduction – Clinical Users, TPP
SystmOne – Administrators. Following each online session supporting
guidance was sent to PCN Lead for dissemination to practice staff. In
order to ensure staff could gain access to clinical systems quickly
NECS Project Team proactively requested CCG Leads to identify RA
Sponsors who could then ensure PBAC access was given within a quick turnaround.
As a result of additional solutions and new ways of working across
PCNs, GP practice have an increased resilience and responsiveness to
COVID 19, ensuring patients can be seen at any practice within each
PCN, irrespective of clinical system.
Enabling patients to receive their prescribed medication
During COVID-19 restrictions, a solution was required to enable
patients to receive their prescribed medication without the need to
visit a GP practice or a specified pharmacy.
As a result, our ICT Programme
and Projects Team supported practices with the introduction of
an Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) Phase 4. Under Phase 4 of
EPS, prescriptions would be sent via EPS by default, whether a patient
has an EPS nominated pharmacy in place or not. This meant that either
patients or their carers could visit the pharmacy of their choice to
A series of tailored communications were created and signposting to
the latest information and updates were disseminated to GP practices
along with 18 online awareness sessions which helped engage staff in
the change. Effective system-wide stakeholder engagement led to all
practices going live with Phase 4, and a knowledge and information
resource is now available to all organisations at a regional and
set-up and configuration of specialist Covid-19 ‘Hot Hubs’
The ICT Programmes
and Projects Team supported the set-up and configuration of
specialist Covid-19 ‘Hot Hubs’ for 10 local CCGs. People exhibiting
symptoms could be assessed in a separate location, reducing avoidable
footfall into GP practices, protecting patients and staff from risk of
infection throughout the pandemic.
Due to the crucially short timescales demanded in establishing the
hot hubs, NECS quickly established a COVID response team. The Project
Manager oversaw the project ensuring the implementation was delivered
safely and efficiently, monitoring activities and highlighting
potential delays early. A new, shared email inbox was established for
all sites to provide a single point of communication and reduce delay
in response times.
NECS supported these sites with additional network upgrades or
provided additional IT equipment ensuring the hubs were fully
operational as quickly as possible, the process took 6 weeks and
encompassed 47 sites. A total of 40 Hot Hubs were created across the
10 CCGs, with an additional 7 sites identified in the North Cumbria area.
To find out about our full range of support and how we can
support your health or social care organisation at this difficult
time, take a look at our