SPaedIT: Bridging the Gap in Paediatric Health Data Post-Pandemic

March 26, 2024 • Reading time 4 minutes

Children’s Care in the Post-Pandemic Era: backlogs and reporting gap

The COVID pandemic placed significant pressures on the health system – the NHS has been since faced with a large backlog after countless routine procedures were cancelled. Children and young people (CYP) have been particularly disadvantaged by growing waiting lists, as they wait for procedures that can have huge impacts on their entire lifespan but are not often a matter of life or death. As a result, paediatric waiting lists have been a lower priority, and have seen a 58% growth since 2021 (NHS Digital, RTT Waiting times). 

In addition to increasing waitlists, there is a large data gap when it comes to children. Collected and reported data is often not detailed enough to highlight pressures on CYP services. A large proportion of existing insight excludes children and young people under the age of 17, and age is often an optional field in existing data collections. Therefore, managers and commissioners are often left in the dark when it comes to assessing the needs of this group. 

The solution: a paediatric-focused reporting tool

Edge Health has partnered with the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme to address the information gap in paediatric care. In collaboration with the national director for Paediatrics, Prof Simon Kenny (OBE), we have developed a new analytical tool – Summary Paediatric Indicator Table (SPaedIT), which not only sheds light on the magnitude of unmet need for CYP, but also offers insights into actions that providers could take to address the issue.

SPaedIT covers eight key paediatric surgical specialties and serves 180 providers who provide treatment for children, including both Specialist Providers and District General Hospitals.

The tool uses eight distinct data sources that are updated monthly and offers over 35 indicators to give a deep understanding of paediatric healthcare services.

Bringing all leaders together

SPaedIT is designed with all provider leadership in mind, from clinical to operational. By reviewing metrics across four key domains of service provision – demand, capacity, flow and outcomes – they can assess and plan services more efficiently.

SPaedIT makes it easy for the users to gauge the level of pressure their provider is experiencing (relative to other providers), diagnose the causes, and enable effective discussions and planning for solutions.

The Development Process – some technical detail

We embarked on the SPaedIT development journey in January 2023 with a vision of improving the transparency in data reporting for children and empowering providers to make better informed decisions. We launched the first version of the tool in just 6 months.

From blank slate to a data tool accessible to all NHS staff across the country – we took the following steps to get us there:

  • Define a vision. We kicked off the project with a series of workshops to brainstorm the vision of the tool. What are we trying to achieve? Who is our primary audience? How are we going to work with the future users to build a tool that is fit for purpose?
  • The starting point. Once we answered the questions above, we worked to create a static mock-up of the future tool. This allowed us to visualise and refine the output we were aiming for. We created a preliminary list of metrics we wanted to track and designed the user interface for the tool.
  • Deep dive into data. Knowing what we are looking to achieve, we have dived into the data. We reviewed and analysed the data from 8 distinct collections (such as Hospital Episode Statistics, Waiting List Minimum Dataset, National Theatres Data Collection, and others) aiming to assess its quality and identify the most salient and useful metrics.
  • Operationalise and automate. We worked to set up a maintainable infrastructure to automate metric production. We leveraged the capabilities of Databricks and Azure Data Factory, a unified data analytics platform, to organise our pipeline. This platform offered the crucial ability to orchestrate complex workflows and provide a collaborative environment for managing our notebooks and pipelines, which were instrumental in processing and transforming raw SQL tables.
  • A picture worth a thousand words. We built an interactive dashboard using Tableau to present data in a way that was engaging and easy to understand.
  • User at the forefront. Throughout the development process, we engaged with users, sharing progress updates and getting feedback on the ongoing developments. In doing so, we made sure the final product was fit for purpose and won the users’ trust.

A Journey Not a Destination

SPaedIT has been live for the past 6 months and accessible to users across the NHS, with an ever-growing user audience consisting of clinicians, operational managers, theatre managers, regional and national teams. We are continuing to collect user feedback, constantly refining and updating the list of metrics, visualisations, and methodology to ensure the data within the dashboard is useful and accurately reflects the situation with children’s services on the ground.

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Edge Health are a specialist UK healthcare analytics consultancy that use data and insights to improve the delivery of health and care services, so that better outcomes can be delivered more efficiently.