23 May 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated many digital health innovations. A remarkable example of this is the ground-breaking National Immunisation Management System (NIMS).
If you think back to the beginning of the pandemic, national digital systems were a distant aspiration as organisations focused on more short-term goals to integrate care at an ICS level. At the time many STPs/ICSs had achieved or were working hard to achieve a basic shared care record to ensure an individual’s care information flowed between care settings in their patch.
As Covid-19 took hold of the nation there was serious concern within NHE/I around the potential for a high prevalence of flu during the pandemic.
A solution was urgently needed to help increase immunisation uptake that would ensure the nation didn’t face a health crisis with flu and Covid-19 in the same season. There was also an urgent requirement for a national call and recall service to drive uptake of flu vaccine. At the same time, the Covid-19 vaccine development was advancing, and a national system needed to be mobilised in readiness.
Just how do you create an immunisation system for 60m citizens, at speed, for a country relying upon an effective vaccine programme to save lives and kick-start economic recovery?
Projects of this scale can be achieved when partnerships are formed between the NHS and industry. Strong working relationships, committed partners and robust contract management are critical to success.
NHS South Central & West CSU (SCW) previously commissioned its technology partner, System C, to provide a leading Child Health Information Service (CHIS) managing data for millions of children.
Based on SCW’s successful CHIS delivery (in partnership with System C) we secured the commission to deliver something similar for the national flu programme.
SCW, the System C and Graphnet Care Alliance and a hybrid mailer supplier, rapidly came together and worked hand-in-glove alongside commissioners NHSE/I, PHE and NHSD/NHSX to design the system.
System C’s alliance partner, Graphnet, was brought into the fold as the data analytics and interfacing specialist, while System C would lead on the data and system development.
Despite the huge challenges to maintain discipline of robust governance and assurance with everyone working from home due to lockdown, and against a backdrop of political pressure to deliver at such a rapid pace, The National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) was successfully designed and delivered to plan.
For the first time, 60m eligible individuals in England have a record on NIMS.
It is the main system of record for all flu and Covid vaccinations programmes across England and holds a record in near real-time of all vaccinations given at an individual patient level and can schedule the calling of patients in the various priority groups by sending letters, emails or text message invitations according to schedules which are matched to the availability of vaccines.
The cloud-based solution hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform, includes a data capture service which collects details of patients at the point of vaccination covering citizens' demographics, clinical records (including adverse reactions) and vaccination status to integrate with numerous other NHS point of care, booking and analytical systems to send and receive data for cohort selection, planning and prioritisation.
NIMS flows data to UK Health Security Agency and NHSE/I for analysis and statistics. Given the scale and importance of the system particular focus was given by all partners to cyber security and clinical safety.
The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the country has been widely praised and NIMS is part of the country’s digital health infrastructure. Added to that, the NHS delivered the most successful national flu immunisation management programme ever. Far exceeding the uptake targets that were set.
The System C and Graphnet Care Alliance and its staff are immensely proud to be part of it.
Covid-19 has taught the nation and its health and social care organisation many things including that for the right reasons and with the right partnerships effective national care systems are possible.
By Markus Bolton, Director, Graphnet