This article was taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/18/nhs-use-sickness-surveillance-system-predict-pressure-points/
The NHS is to use a “sickness surveillance system” to predict illnesses before they happen this winter in a bid to cope with crippling pressures.
The technology combines data gathered daily from GP surgeries, hospital emergency departments, the NHS 111 helpline and walk-in centres with Met Office weather alerts and is intended to give medics early warning of regional outbreaks of flu or other seasonal illnesses.
When it records a surge in any particular illness, it will provide the NHS with several days’ notice that hospitals in the same area are likely to see an influx of patients.
In turn, they will have the chance to reschedule planned surgery, free up beds and ensure that enough staff are on standby, it is hoped.
They might also be able to switch outpatient appointments to “hot clinics” by providing direct access to GPs and have enough warning to arrange isolation areas for infectious patients with illnesses such as the norovirus, which can cause ward closures.
A spokeswoman from Public Health England (PHE), which developed and operates the system, said: “It will assess pressure points when they come up, for instance hospitals in a specific area might expect an increase in heart attack or stroke admissions within a certain number of days because they are complications that can develop from flu.”
The technology was first developed for the 2012 Olympic Games in London to give organisers an early warning of any sickness bug sweeping through the athletes’ village.
It has now been developed nationally and the NHS said this was the first year it was using it in this way.
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s medical director for acute care, said: “The impact major outbreaks of these illnesses can have on our hospitals cannot be under-estimated – leading to whole wards having to be closed, with the loss of beds just when we need them most.
“We can look at the trends across all of the PHE health data sources and try to anticipate surges in demand.
“The breadth and variety of surveillance data from PHE gives us vital time to put escalation plans in place, to free up beds and reconfigure wards.
“We can plan how to best provide care to a higher number of patients with a specific illness, and to corral patients who are suffering the same illnesses.
“It also means we can better predict when things will return to normal and plan accordingly.”
Public Health England said its “world leading” surveillance system would track upsurges and support co-ordination of NHS resources.
It said that even in moderate conditions, for every one degree drop in temperature, there was a four per cent increase in deaths and a one per cent increase in emergency admissions.
A spokeswoman said it could track the sorts of infections patients were being treated for as well as the volume, providing an overall picture of how winter illnesses affect the country.
The NHS has been given an extra £335million to ease winter pressures, amid fears that hospitals will struggle if Britain were to suffer a flu epidemic.
Last winter, waiting times in A&E were among the worst on record, despite mild weather and low levels of flu.