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Media design and technology graduates from the University of Bradford deliver medical web apps in record time as part of Covid-19 response


Media design and technology graduates from the University of Bradford deliver medical web apps in record time as part of Covid-19 response

New system to support NHS trust dealing with influx of new staff ‘being looked at nationally’

Front end web developers, digital designers and content creators from the Working Academy, based at the University of Bradford, have swung into action in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to produce user-friendly ‘apps’ and websites for the NHS that may save lives.

The services are already being used by care providers and thousands of patients.

One project involves the creation of an online portal - known as C-ARE (Crisis - assess | response | escalate) – for existing staff moving to critical departments like A&E and ICU and for the dozens of new staff joining the NHS in Bradford as part of the national response to coronavirus.

It goes live today (Thursday April 9, 2020) and is already being considered for use in other NHS trusts.

Another has seen a GP website overhauled to make it more responsive to patients wanting to engage online and a third is enabling cardiology consultants to conduct ‘virtual’ angina clinics, thereby removing the need (and risk) of them attending appointments in person.

Head of the Working Academy, Simon Couth, who works closely with the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics, said the work had been completed in record time.

“During normal times, web app development would take three to four months - we have completed the hospital ‘extranet’ C-ARE project in just three weeks.”

The Working Academy, supported by the University’s digital health facility, the Digital Health Enterprise Zone, has been helping students from the Department of Media Design and Technology for a decade. It became a ‘spin out’ company two years ago, giving undergraduates and postgraduates the chance to work on ‘real world projects’ and be paid at the same time. It takes on between 60 and 70 projects a year, offering around 120 ‘learning opportunities’, including everything from high-end coding to shooting and producing video.

Simon added: “The message is that the University of Bradford gives you the opportunity to work on real world projects that make a difference to people’s lives, now more than ever. What we have done with these three initial projects is to make existing services much more user friendly at a time when it is needed most.”

Alastair Wood, associate dean of external relations at the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics, said: “This is another great example of ‘Making Knowledge Work’, the University’s motto, and in particular is a testament to the sector-relevance of the Faculty’s degree programmes and to the ability of our well-grounded students to engage rapidly and effectively to deliver real-world solutions to real-word problems that benefit health and well-being and the wider community.”

The three projects are just part of the University of Bradford’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, the university has donated PPE and ethanol to local hospitals and care homes, offered its cutting edge laboratory facilities to help with the production of ventilators and is offering ‘webinars’ for midwives.

The three Working Academy Projects include:-

C-ARE ‘Extranet’ for Bradford hospitals ‘could be used as a national template’ says NHS clinical entrepreneur

Dozens of returning doctors, recently graduated final year medical students and current NHS staff working in the six hospitals in the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BTHFT) can now use a new mobile-based ‘extranet’ known as C-ARE (Crisis - Assess | Respond | Evaluate) to access key information about their new job roles, saving time, money and hopefully lives.

Dr Maulik Gandhi is an orthopaedic consultant and NHS ‘clinical entrepreneur’ and one of those who commissioned the project.

He said: “We approached the University of Bradford to help us with the mass ‘on-boarding’ staff. The objective was we need to train people and upskill others into new roles they might not be familiar with. During normal times, when you start a new job, you get an induction. At present, we do not have that time. We want to get as many people as possible ready for clinical care.”

He added that in his role as an NHS clinical entrepreneur he has already had several conversations with colleagues in other trusts and national clinical bodies with a view to the Bradford system being used elsewhere.

“I’m delighted with how the teams worked together in such a short time. It will make a difference here and if we can show it’s a success, it could be used nationally and even internationally.”

Simon explained how the new ‘extranet’ works.

“Previously, this information would have had to be accessed on an ‘intranet’ from a computer in the hospital building. We have made that information accessible to NHS staff before they start work, providing essential information so they can hit the ground running.”

Vasiliki Delimpasi, who graduated from the Department of Media Design & Technology at the University of Bradford with a first class degree and now works for, was lead developer on the C-ARE project.

She said: “This project aims to help junior doctors/trainee medical staff in their first days of working in the Bradford Royal Infirmary Hospital, to help fight against the Coronavirus Pandemic. It makes me proud. The sense of achievement and the feeling we are giving back to the medical community is very fulfilling and I am happy to still be a part of the Working Academy.”

  • New system creates an ‘access anywhere’ site offering crucial information to new NHS starters and those switching roles, giving them clear information on where to go on their first day, where to get PPE, contact numbers and standard operating procedures
  • System also offers a ‘mini facebook’ chat room for NHS staff
  • New system could be offered to other NHS trusts if successful in Bradford

GP website given make-over

Web developers and designers from the University of Bradford’s Working Academy have used their skills to transform an existing GP website into a more user-friendly portal which has already been accessed by over a thousand patients.

The Saltaire & Windhill Medical Partnership’s original site is not untypical of many GP practice websites with routes to access online services often hard to find. But by working with the staff and patient focus groups at the newly merged practice, Bradford’s Working Academy revamped the site, it has won plaudits from patients and GPs.

Simon added: “We have always worked closely with the NHS and are now devoting much of our time to essential projects to help the health service with digital tools to better manage communication between staff and the public.”

Virtual ‘cardio’ clinic could save lives

The Working Academy, based at the University of Bradford, has helped create an online portal for cardiology patients, helping reduce or remove entirely the need for them to attend appointments in person.

Bradford Angina Service has been developed in conjunction with consultant cardiologists from Bradford Royal Infirmary.  It is another service which could have wider potential.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Paul Sainsbury, from BTHFT, explained: “The site is designed for a certain cohort of patients with a very difficult form of angina and there’s only three services across the UK that deal with it - Liverpool, Bradford and London - so there’s a great geographical inequality in access to the service, so having it online increases the availability of it.”

Simon said: “It’s a nice example of a service being built solely around the user experience. You have to understand the user journey. It’s not about doing something just because the technology allows.

The new service will be implemented and tested over the coming weeks.

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