Scaling pioneering research with NHS Blood and Transplant during Covid-19

Using automation to help NHS Blood and Transplant scale up its plasma donation as part of the National “RECOVERY” clinical trial during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) provides a service to the NHS to handle blood donation and organ donation. From public encouragement and donation collection to diagnostic services and pioneering research, the organisation is at the frontline of supporting hospital blood and transplant needs across the UK.

During the pandemic, NHSBT launched its Convalescent Plasma Programme. This was a clinical trial to collect donor blood plasma from members of the public who had recovered from Covid-19 in order to help patients who were struggling to develop an immune response. 

However, finding eligible donors at scale proved challenging. NHSBT needed a solution to help them scale up their donor selection process quickly and efficiently, and to better identify potential donors with high-grade Covid-19 antibodies.

Photo showing a man receiving a vaccine
Photo showing a doctor at computer

Our approach

NHSBT knew they wanted to automate much of their process of contacting, screening, and securing potential donors. To achieve this, it needed to move away from using a call centre for communications, and implement more efficient screening processes that better identified eligible members of the public without the need to visit a donor centre.

We worked closely with the team at NHSBT to map out their existing service and identify user needs for patients, test providers, labs, and contact centre agent users. As a result, we designed a new end-to-end service to help NHSBT scale up their plasma collection process.

We built new APIs that integrated with participating test providers and laboratories to automate the process, as well as the Gov.UK Notify platform for email, which helps organisations contact their service users.

Our solution was built on the organisation’s existing tech stack in a sustainable and easily manageable way, so that NHSBT could continue to support and repurpose it in the future.

“Thank you all for your work on off-session sampling for convalescent plasma. You all have done a great job working as a team, especially considering the really tight timescales … and you have delivered!”

Marian Zelman, Technology Lead at NHSBT

The results

Working with NHSBT, we delivered a service that helped scale and optimise the organisation’s plasma donation process for convalescent patients during Covid-19.

This led to a substantial increase in public engagement. It also decreased the amount of ineligible donors progressing to the donation stage, and increased the amount of high titre blood plasma collected.

  • Increased plasma donor recruitment
  • Rapid scaling of key Covid-19 services
  • Upskilled NHSBT team to enable them to build on their service in the future
Photo showing the NHS BT article on the Convalescent plasma programme webpage open on computer

“It works brilliantly! Thanks to all of you for some awesome development that has really given NHSBT a fantastic product and a great legacy for the Convalescent Patient Programme.”

Marcus Hinde, Product Owner at NHSBT

The results

  • Collaborative delivery of a new digital service in accordance with GDS and NHS standards
  • APIs used to automate service
  • Launched within 10 weeks

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