Data – can we really make informed decisions without it?

In this case study, Danielle Chulan, Deputy Director of NHS Services, Connect Health describes the importance of having good data at our fingertips to make better decisions.

Connect Health designs and implements COVID-19 operational and clinical dashboard in 3 days, providing confidence and capacity.


The problem

When Covid struck, the fear of the unknown was one of the biggest impediments for good decision making. It brought numerous challenges for NHS providers and in particular the continuation of safe and effective services whilst protecting patients and staff. There was a major requirement to understand demand and capacity in order to provide ongoing care to patients requiring urgent support.

Our plans were changing on a daily basis. Not only did we need to react quickly to the ever changing Covid landscape, but we needed to forecast resources, mitigate risks and evaluate the impact, all whilst ensuring that our patients and our colleagues were safe and well.

Danielle Chulan, Deputy Director of NHS Services, Connect Health


The solution – COVID-19 Operational and Clinical Dashboard

The Dashboard is the brainchild of Danielle Chulan, Deputy Director of NHS Services, who’s role is to support the strategic oversight and operational leadership of Connect Health’s 26 NHS commissioned services.

We developed a live insight panel that was able to show the impact of COVID-19 in realtime on our clinicians, our estates, demand, activity and clinical utilisation. We were able to drill down into service level detail. We developed insight into referrers, clinician and patient behaviours that allowed us to ensure that we continued to provide quality care to those patients with urgent need, without creating a blackhole for patients who didn’t meet the criteria.


Impact of Covid on MSK, Pain and Rheumatology services

Our data enabled us to evidence and prove that the COVID-19 Prioritisation within Community Health Services guidance from NHS England had been embedded nationally. As we developed innovative pathways we had full live visibility of clinician and patient behaviours including trajectories for capacity and demand planning.

  • 44% of our workforce were at one point affected by COVID-19, resulting in either self isolation, shielding or sickness (Mar-Jun 2020)
  • Only 11% of the entire workforce at any one time, weren’t able to continue to work
  • 56% of our venues were affected. Either closed temporarily eg for cleaning or closed completely to patients



Impact on colleagues, patients and tax payer

  • We had pre-empted the needs of lockdown
  • We had already facilitated home working prior to lockdown
  • We already had good awareness on the impact of Covid on our services

Having such a variety and depth of data available to us has played a key role in managing our service through this time. It has provided clear information on our current service demands and insight into what may be on the horizon so we can plan to best support our patients, colleagues and partners.

Jon Durham, Service Manager, Hammersmith and Fulham service


Achievements during COVID-19

During the pandemic from March to June 2020

  • We assessed 55,000 patients
  • 64% were discharged with self management advice and rehabilitation support
  • The remainder were either referred onto an urgent clinical pathway (A&E) or reviewed in the service

The dashboard gave us a new lens. We had national oversight and were able to understand the variations between different services. Where there was crisis redeployment need, we were able to utilise our national pool to support maintenance of core MSK Triage services.

Danielle Chulan, Deputy Director of NHS Services, Connect Health



Everyone’s focus quite rightly has been Covid but we have a responsibility for all patients. Our commissioners still wanted us to triage and manage patients working on the “Do it once, do it well” model. This data allowed us to evidence that this was happening.

We were doing it once and doing it well and we had full national visibility of capacity, demand and utilisation. Having immediate access to this data allowed for leadership resources to be focused on innovative ways to continue to deliver services virtually. This has put us in a great position to better support patients going forwards.

We’ve not created a backlog that we’re not able to unravel. The creation of this dashboard has helped build the foundations of a companywide Management Information (MI) requirements review giving us long term visibility – watch this space. Connect Health is in a steady state, working towards our trajectories and embedding innovative new ways of working.

Without the dashboard, we would have been in chaos. In a world where there was a complete fear of the unknown, people were thinking the worst and had lost the insight that you get from being present within a clinic. This Dashboard gave us the real picture and the objective perspective to focus on. Without the what ifs and catastrophising. It allowed us to be objective and not make emotional decisions.

The “Don’t Panic” Dashboard helped us deliver safe patient care during Covid and beyond.


Read the full case study