Regional Data Driven Models could be vital to easing of lockdown

An AHSN NENC sponsored Durham University project has rapidly expanded to include COVID-19 modelling, which has been used to support regional planning, involving several local Universities and NHS Trusts and care homes as they move into the next phase of their COVID-19 response planning.

A leading team of researchers, led by Dr Camila Caiado and Professor Brian Castellani from Durham University, are developing models to help health services predict and understand outcomes for COVID-19 patients by using hospital data.

The models can be used, for example, to support planning for critical care capacity by hospitals and to investigate effectiveness of treatment for different cohorts of patients.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, case and transmission rates have varied sharply across regions in England. While places such as London experienced a high number of cases early on in the crisis, areas such as the North East have ‘peaked’ much later.

Local insights are crucial as they enable more realistic short and medium-term predictions at a regional level, which can inform how local strategies are developed in response to COVID-19.

It is now planned that the models will be used to support decision making around the re-opening of suspended non-critical services, such as elective surgery, as well as curbing the future spread of the virus.

Commenting, Dr Camila Caiado, Associate Professor in Mathematical Sciences and project lead, said: “National models have been incredibly helpful throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to map out worst case scenarios and predictions, but our work in the North East of England shows that local health needs to be taken into account.

“Both local and national models have an important role to play, and we need them to work alongside each other to help adapt national policies into local strategies that reduce health inequalities.”

Dr Caiado and Professor Castellani have been working closely with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, as well as local authorities, to provide modelling around capacity and care planning.

Dr Caiado added: “This work is part of a long-standing relationship with the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, local authorities and local NHS trusts, a partnership that has helped us to develop a unique cross-regional approach. In future, we hope to work with all trusts in the region on the longer-term planning of health and social care.”

Maria Roche, Interim CEO at the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, said:

“We are delighted to collaborate with Durham University in supporting the development of the Trusted Research Environment (TRE) and more specifically since March 2020, in harnessing its utility to perform COVID-19 analysis for the region.

“This data capture will generate invaluable insights and allow predictive modelling to be performed which will be both transformational and instrumental in helping the NHS and Local Authorities navigate their way out of the pandemic and plan post-COVID-19.”