In recent times our team of data scientists have been increasingly called upon to provide valuable intelligence based on the anonymised data that we securely hold within our very own, world leading SAIL Databank.
The skills and expertise held by our teams of technical, analytical, security and governance experts have become widely recognised as exemplars of industry excellence.
So as the emergence of COVID-19 in Wales brought with it uncertainty for every aspect of society, questions quickly surfaced.
How and where the virus was being transmitted? What effect it would have on our families’ health? Would our health services cope – through to what knock on long-term impact this period would have on how people here live their lives?
As parents, partners, friends and colleagues we all had questions, but as data scientists we could help to identify some answers. It was at this point the One Wales approach to COVID-19 was formed.
As cases of COVID-19 emerged in Wales the insight of the team based within Population Data Science at Swansea University was offered to assist the Welsh Government and Chief Medical Officer for Wales, whose decisions on policy are guided by the intelligence presented at Welsh Government Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and UK Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE).
Quickly a team was assembled that would draw on the necessary expertise to guide this policy decision making. Bringing together colleagues from both within Swansea and across Wales including HDR UK, ADR Wales, SAIL Databank, ADP, BREATHE, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) has resulted in an agile and responsive approach to tackling data analysis and intelligence generation based on both the constant and newly developing priorities for tackling COVID-19 in Wales.
Using SAIL, the One Wales team can monitor the impact of a wide range of exposures and outcomes on the entire population using robustly de-identified data. It is possible to track the development of health conditions in individuals and nested in households and school populations, monitor the development and spread of diseases and evaluate the impact of exposures and the effects of treatments on outcomes.
The insight delivered to Welsh TAG and UK SAGE has added to understanding and helped to shape decisions on lockdown guidance and policies in Wales.
For many, the restrictions placed on our lives are unlike anything we have lived through before, but the One Wales team have quickly adapted and are consistently working together to produce intelligence to inform national decision making at an unprecedented speed.
Thanks to the efforts of all involved, new data is being deposited within the SAIL Databank to aid this timely and relevant analysis. The scale, scope and cadence of data flows into SAIL has increased with health and administrative data sources needed for COVID-19 analysis now benefitting from daily, weekly and monthly refreshes.
The robust ethical and security measures built throughout the infrastructure of the SAIL Databank have not been compromised.
Instead, thanks to the fast responses, collaborations and solutions found within the One Wales team, analysis and the many stringent steps of data acquisition, technical and governance processes which must happen before analysis can take place in SAIL, are now being completed faster and with the more timely results than ever before.
The One Wales team will continue to work together to identify gaps in knowledge and streamline efforts to deliver vital intelligence to help policy makers understand and plan around the issue of COVID-19 in Wales and across the UK.
Continue to follow our updates as we shine a light on the expertise from across the Population Data Science team that has helped to deliver the One Wales vision for COVID-19 response.
This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. We would also like to acknowledge all data providers who make anonymised data available. All research conducted has been completed under the permission and approval of the SAIL independent Information Governance Review Panel (IGRP) project number 0911.
BY CATHRINE RICHARDS, SWANSEA UNIVERSITY
The weekly reports to SAGE can be found on HDR UK website – A national health data research capability to support COVID-19 research questions https://www.hdruk.ac.uk/covid-19/capability-to-support-covid-19-research-questions/