DataJam North East: Virtual Event Series – #1 Health

Smart watch showing health data

On 4 June, the first event in the DataJam Virtual Event Series was hosted by DataJam North East in association with National Innovation Centre for Data and Analyst Network NE (ANNE).


DataJam North East aims to bring people together with a variety of backgrounds from across the public and private sector to talk about how data and service design can be used to solve real problems that are affecting people in our region.

The DataJam conferences held in 2018 and 2019 were attended by several hundred people and featured hacks and workshop sessions. These events were highly successful in producing tangible outcomes, data insights and funded projects. You can view highlights from previous events here: DataJam 2019 Collaboration and Community  The Outcomes from DataJam 2018.

Although there will not be a physical conference in September, DataJam continues to host events and has launched a Virtual Event Series to help stimulate discussion and identify projects that can be progressed and taken forward to the next DataJam Conference.

Health event

The first virtual DataJam event featured speed talks and discussions with panellists, and was attended by 141 people from 38 public and private sector organisations across the DataJam community.


The main theme was ‘Health’, specifically focusing on the ‘Improved use of Health data in a Covid and post-Covid world.’


View the full event at the NICD YouTube Channel:


Visualising Covid-19 in the North East in a global context

Nick Holliman, Professor of Visualisation – Newcastle University

Nick discussed the project he began early in the Covid-19 crisis to better understand the progression of the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically with regards to data in the North of England. Nick showed a series of visualisations created from data sources exploring peak infection rates by UK region across the past months. Nick discussed the barriers to trustworthy decision-making created by the lack of open data available in the UK. He noted the need for, at a minimum, regional test numbers and people tested as well as test results so that there are comparable rates of cases in all regions.


Links:  Twitter: @binocularity

Modelling Covid-19 patient journeys using continuous time Markov processes

Jonathan Law, Data Scientist, National Innovation Centre for Data

Jonny Law provided an overview of a project undertaken by NICD to understand the typical journey of a Covid-19 patient in a hospital in Medina, Italy, in a bid to help frontline clinicians identify when a patient will require more serious interventions. Jonny discussed the different strategies, models and approaches that were considered to analyse this data. The data comprised many different types of measurements and interventions taken as the patients moved through the hospital at different stages of their treatment.


Using unstructured text as an additional data source for post-Covid planning

Stephanie Clish, Head of Operations, Wordnerds

An SaaS platform that combines artificial intelligence with advanced linguistics, Wordnerds can help to surface insight from large amounts of not just social data but unstructured text data.

Stephanie shared the work of Wordnerds and described the ways in which organisations are using the Wordnerds platform to help understand the impact of Covid-19. 

For example, health research organisations have used Wordnerds to monitor the spread of the virus and understand its symptoms and potentially any new ones that arise.


Wordnerds can use real-time data to provide alerts, which are triggered by specific events or topics and understand trends in historical data sets (unknown unknowns) For example, by volume, how many people does this issue affect?

Wordnerds are supporting several large supermarkets in using data to examine the challenges and issues their customers are facing in relation to Covid-19.



Pharmaceutical production

Clinical Prioritisation Assistance Tool (CPAT)

Sam Kennedy, Postgraduate Researcher, Newcastle University
Clinical Prioritisation Assistance Tool (CPAT)


Sam described the CPAT, which he has been developing with a large team of people for the last several weeks in response to an anticipated surge in demand for critical care resources as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. CPAT is designed to support clinicians’ decision-making to ensure that critical care resources are allocated efficiently and effectively. Decision support is based on generating a ranked list of patients using policies specified by experts, informed by data and clinical experience.


Quantifying the impact of Covid-19 on Tyne and Wear using IoT

Luke Smith – Deputy Director - Urban Observatory, Newcastle University

Led by Newcastle University, the Urban Observatory is a national network of cities with open data IoT networks, whose main interest is to monitor changes in the urban environment in order to inform policy and better understand those changes.

Luke described the work Urban Observatory has been doing to quantify the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in our region and shared examples of the support they have been able to provide:

  • Analysing transport data for use by the Department for Transport
  • Expanding the amount of open data available around urban change
  • Exploring the implications for policy, such as air quality and climate implications, and other practical implications, such as the risks of transmission within public transport, footpath width and parking, which will go towards informing the public about the safest periods to visit high streets


Service design and data coming together to help support people with disabilities 

Aleksandra Bobrowska – Data Scientist – DWP Digital


The Covid-19 crisis arrived at a time of massive digital transformation for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Aleks described the changes to services which were implemented at DWP in response to the crisis. Priorities were altered leading to the order of service transformation shifting and being accelerated to allow DWP to deliver key services during lockdown to those shielding or isolating and unable to leave their homes. In particular, Aleks referenced the work she had done with the team responsible for personal independence payment, a benefit that provides financial support to people living with a disability.



Discrete event simulation for Covid-19 recovery commissioning 

Allan Worthy & Dominic Rowney – North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS)

Colleagues Allan Worthy and Dominic Rowney work predominantly in the business intelligence (BI) analytics support function of NECS. They shared information about the work they undertook to use health data and predictive modelling to understand how the region’s health services can recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Allan related recovery to the direct and indirect effects of the disease but also the wider implications of the lockdown in suppressing activity across the NHS and the legacy issues which would need to be factored into long-term recovery.

Dominic then discussed using discrete event simulation models to predict possible activity around hospital discharge service requirements and the effect of quarantine on mental health – a thread common to each of the recovery elements. Their work has been constrained by the limited release of data and, when more data becomes available, they will have better insight into how to refine and improve the models. NECs is now at the stage of returning to the policymakers for subject matter experts who can better inform the assumptions within the models.


Covid and local food systems

Andy Haddon – Director – Earth Doctors Ltd

Andy raises the challenge of using data to address social and environmental change. He shares the work of Food Newcastle and Earth Doctors who aim to create a sustainable food city by building networks, connecting people and promoting sustainable food programme to improve the quality of lives in our region. Their approach links food and health and posits that the system change necessary to transform local food systems can only be achieved through a data-centric approach.



NHSBSA publication strategy, official statistics and our open data portal

Michael Cole – Statistician – NHS Business Services Authority

Michael discussed the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) publication strategy for data, launched last year, the Open Data Portal and his team’s role in furthering the NHSBSA’s aim of being a catalyst for better health by improving the way they tell the story of their data and informing debate. In publishing open data as well as national statistics, NHSBSA are keen for people to investigate, share and collaborate on the data sets they can offer.


NHSBSA drives value from data through its reporting and analysis. It delivers insight through analysis of data underpinning transactions worth £34bn per annum. In terms of operational delivery, this ranges from the 1.1 million prescription items processed to 4 million orders fulfilled by the NHS supply chain.


NHSBSA Covid-19 response: The importance of data engineering

Andy Mason – Statistician – NHS Business Services Authority

Andy described the NHSBSA data analytics landscape and benefits that stem from their work. He discussed the data warehouse journey and explored the choices they made in building their own ELT Engine – their SCD2 layer mix between the raw data and the dimensions of the fact layer has, among other benefits, reduced the time it takes developers and statisticians to uncover new insights. Andy also talked about the BI platform in use by NHSBSA, which is served to the rest of the NHS through traditional dashboards. With around 4,000 registered users and 80 internal analysts, 8,000 queries a day hit their data warehouse.

Andy emphasised the importance of well-engineered data in a time of crisis as it has enabled the NHSBSA to respond quickly to the challenges raised by Covid-19. He described the actions NHSBSA have been able to take using that data during the pandemic, for example, reducing footfall at GP's surgeries and identifying pressures on pharmacy for delivering medicines. In addition, this data contributed to the creation of the Shielded Patient List.




The latter half of the event incorporated panels which provided an opportunity for the DataJam community to discuss topics that we take forward and develop into projects that could be explored at the next DataJam Conference.


Jenny Nelson

First up was Jenny Nelson, Digital Newcastle Programme Manager, who asked for regional support for Newcastle City Council’s Track and Trace project.


The Council would like to be able to use data to inform local interventions whether reactive, in terms of infection rates and impact levels within communities or complex settings, or preventative which will ensure people in our region can continue to live a relatively normal life in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.


The challenge for the Council has been securing data sets to help inform the local interventions, and it was for this reason Jenny was seeking assistance from the DataJam community.


Helen McElroy

The second discussion was led by Helen McElroy, Senior Information Governance Lead at Evolve North.


Helen spoke to the issue of data sharing and discussed the barriers to the sharing of data which have become apparent during the Covid-19 crisis and addressed the questions of what can be done to try and improve the use of health data in the future. Helen discussed the positive and negative aspects of data sharing that have stemmed from the Covid-19 crisis.


Attendees strongly agreed that data sharing to support health planning had improved during the Covid pandemic but also thought the level of data sharing and improved sharing of data between sectors and organisations which we have seen in our region during this crisis will have a long-term impact for data sharing.

Peter Wells

Peter Wells led the final discussion to explore local health data and local places and the need to effect long-term change which will ensure data is accessible to localities where it is needed.

Peter described his endeavours to get local communities from across the country to share information with each other about the data they are using to respond to Covid-19 so that it might be possible to learn from each about successful methodologies with the ultimate aim of being able to present to Central Government evidence of the data sets that are essential and need to be made available.