Data analytics: addressing the A&E crisis facing NHS Trusts


Visual analytics technology has helped Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust become one of the top performing A&E departments in the country.

It was one of only 10 trusts to meet the government’s A&E target last year, saving millions in the process.

WWL achieved this, in part, by deploying visual analytics from Qlik across the organisation.

Empowering staff with data analytics decreased A&E waiting times by 30 minutes, reducing commissioner fines and cutting agency staffing fees.

Accident and emergency rooms across the country are facing a crisis because of a shortage of trained doctors, and outdated processing methods.

In August, United Lincolnshire hospitals NHS trust (ULHT) said that a “crisis point” had been reached and patients’ lives could be put at risk if action was not taken at Grantham and District hospital. It is not a one-off problem, or an issue affecting this trust.

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“NHS Foundation Trusts nationwide are under constant pressure to drive efficiencies while cutting costs. WWL has shown that giving staff access to data and empowering them to actually bring about change will get the best out of them,” said David Bolton, Director, Public Sector & Healthcare, Qlik.

With winter approaching and pressure increasing on A&E departments across England, WWL’s business intelligence team, led by Mark Singleton, was aware the situation could become exponentially worse with patients lives being put at risk.

The team searched for ways of saving costs and improving patient care by identifying patterns in the WWL Trust’s raw data.

In order to process this data efficiently, the team developed a visible A&E data application, using Qlik technology.

This provides live A&E data to front-line staff and clinicians, allowing them to plan for both long-term and short-term staffing as well as presenting a current view of the A&E department and the areas surrounding it that affect patient flow.

“The dashboard is easily accessible as well as easy to understand and use,” said Dr. Stephen Gulliford, A&E Consultant, WWL. “It allows a clear, visible, real-time update of the situation across the Trust at any given time – from unscheduled care through to the provision/adjustment of appropriate workforce and resources to meet the demand.”

The results have seen improved discharge levels, which have reduced delays and minimised re-admissions.

With this insight, the Trust can also plan for both long-term and short-term staffing as well as presenting a current view of the A&E department and the areas surrounding it that affect patient flow.

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The visual management and alerts mechanisms provided by the application help to ensure patients are prioritised in the right order.

The Trust’s CEO, Andrew Foster, also uses the technology in order to gain an overview of how the trust is doing at a particular moment, and what is expected to happen in the coming hours.

This technology, according to the report, has not only allowed WWL to decrease A&E waiting times by 30 minutes, but has also saved the Trust close to £1 million, as they have been able to cut agency staffing fees and commissioner fines.

The money saved can now be invested back into the Trust to improve patient care and equipment.

“Knowing how many patients are likely to be admitted provides the Trust with a forward look on bed availability and flags potential capacity issues in the days or weeks to come, something very pertinent to the financial challenges the NHS is facing with reductions in Acute beds,” said Rob Forster, Director of Finance & IM&T and Deputy CEO, WWL.

“All those who have seen the application – from our own staff to visitors such as NHS England, the media and a Member of Parliament – have commented that they haven’t seen such sophisticated software in this environment and that’s why we strongly believe it is cutting edge innovation within healthcare.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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