Data quality and demand and capacity pilots

NCL Wide

Demand and capacity relates to the data quality and analysis surrounding the requirements of resources and workforce across practices in NCL.

As part of the demand and capacity pilots, the Digital First team launched a data quality pilot between May 2022 and July 2022, with the aim of increasing the quality of clinical data in NCL. 

After a successful pilot, the team is now ready to roll the pilot out to the rest of NCL. Practices can sign up to be part of the programme by filling out the Expression of Interest form.

The data quality pilot aims to provide the tools and methods necessary for primary care clinicians to:

  • reduce the amount of returned referrals from referral support services (RSS) by using an approved NCL standard referral form
  • facilitate the analysis and planning of care and demand 
  • accurately report in-practice demand by:
    • decreasing the use of generic codes (e.g. referral for further care) and increasing the use of QOF and specific referral codes which will allow practices to better understand their referrals
    • decreasing the use of multiple generic codes for a specific referral (e.g. cardiological referral, referral to cardiology)
    • appropriately recording the nature of appointments (e.g. telephone, face-to-face, digital)
  • gain better insights into their clinical practice
  • help aid delivery planning on an ICS, regional, or even national level
  • increase legal safety by appropriately coding clinical practice.

The pilot introduced an EMIS-embedded protocol (NCL Referral to Services, see EMIS protocol features) to all primary care practices in NCL, which will support staff creating referral letters by:

  •  improving quality of the referral letter and therefore increasing safety and hopefully reducing returned referrals
  • speeding up the process to create a referral letter.

It also introduced a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) showing how to use the protocol, as well as other guidance to be implemented within practices, such as direction for appropriate consultation modes recording and guidance regarding clinical coding.

The EMIS protocol has the following features:

  • automatically populated practice information (e.g. practice name, address, telephone, email address)
  • click-through prompted questions (e.g. referral type, investigations, and consultations notes to add)
  • ability to select the type of referral that the referrer wants to make, including Advice and Guidance, Letter to Consultant and borough specific referrals (e.g. cardiology or respiratory) 
  • automatically populated QOF codes based on the type of referral being made
  • ability to add investigations and problems to the referral; by default, active problems and last year of investigations and values are added, but the user can include less or more at will
  • automatically created standard referral form with consultation notes selected by the user
  • automatically prompt a task to be sent to admin staff to submit the referral (if the practice requests this feature).

See the NCL Referral to Services protocol video for more information.

The pilot was conducted with four practices in four boroughs (Barnet, Camden, Enfield and Haringey), with the following results:

  • use of the code "Referral for further care" was reduced from 470 uses per month to 115; a 75.5% decrease, meaning on average only 3.47% of codes at these practices were referral for further care, down from 15.2%
  • 250 codes changed from “Referral to further care” to codes specified within the protocol
  • use of intended codes per referral showed an overall increase in most referral groups (e.g. the cardiology recommended code went up from 12.5% to 25.3%).

User feedback included:

  • the new protocol system was given a 4.67/5 average rating, with 89% of users finding it easier to follow than their previous referral process
  • 78% of respondents recorded an average time saving of between one to five minutes per referral
  • all respondents recommended the continual use of the protocol in their practice.

One user said:

The new NCL referral template is a clear and well-structured letter with a clearly laid out format that can be quickly accessed via F12 protocols in EMIS. This allows referral triages and specialists to find all the information needed to assess and manage patients with less risk of missing information and bounce backs to surgeries. The improved coding allows a more enriched data set of referral patterns to specialities and community services. This data can be used for training and education and comparators to neighbouring practices/primary care networks (PCNs). I enthusiastically endorse its adoption further across NCL practices”.

Another user said:

"As a clinician, I find launching from F12, the already titled referral form and the subsequent PN that pops up helpful, faster and more efficient that the previous method. It supports clinical safety in that the pop up PN reduces the chance of a clinician writing a referral and forgetting to arrange for it to be sent”.


Review date: Saturday, 20 May 2023