Data warehouses and dashboards might not be the sexiest technology in the world, but Angela Partington often finds herself working late to make sure they deliver for her trust.

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust covers four hospitals in the Greater Manchester area, and Partington recently designed a way to give all of its bed managers real time information about problems and where and when beds will be free.

The work involves triangulating data from A&E, the patient administration system, and the CSC VisiWard bed information system within the data warehouse. “We’re in the middle of moving to a new data warehouse now as well, but hopefully the users won’t notice that,” Partington says.

Many trusts struggle with bed management. Traditionally, they have had to spend considerable amounts of time and staff resources on conducting manual censuses and holding meetings to try and get reasonably up to date information to those who need it.

Partington wants Pennine to do much better. “We’re doing admissions and discharges now, so people can look at the data in real time,” she says. “We’ll put out a list of people we expect to come in today and marry that up with admissions so that if someone is looking for a bed they can juggle things around.

“We’re looking to be building on that with more information, and that’s the really exciting bit. We’re going to be able to let clinicians see what’s happening in their area in real time.”

Having fun with databases

Partington has always been interested in computers and studied software engineering at university in Liverpool. After spending three months on a road trip around the US, she came back to the UK ready to work.

She spent several years working as a system engineer for a telecommunications company, but then decided she needed more of a challenge.

She joined NHS Tameside and Glossop –a primary care trust – as an information support officer, where she got her first taste of working with clinicians in the NHS by project managing the implementation of primary mental health care software.

“Mental health clinicians are a special bunch,” she says shaking her head jokingly as she reminisces on her days at the PCT.

Her experience hardly put her off working with the NHS though, and when the job at Pennine Acute came up, it was too good to turn down.

Partington has been working as a data warehouse system and development analyst at the trust since September 2011. She remembers the date vividly, not just because she started her new job, but because she started it a month before her wedding. “It was a good year, “she says.

Partington is proud of the work she is doing, but as she enthusiastically boots up her computer to show EHI some of her current projects, she acknowledges that not everybody is excited about dashboards as she is.

“God, this is really unsexy, isn’t it,” she says with a laugh. However, she says the trust has given her plenty of opportunities to learn new things, so “there’s never a dull day” in her work.

“It’s challenging but fun and so it’s cool to be involved in it. It’s about making is easier for the end user to get the information they need in a way that works for them.”

Real time data

In addition to the bed management work, Partington is working on improving the reporting suite at the trust, giving commissioners, the trust board, and clinicians real-time reports with quality information.

“We send real time reports out every day, but the challenge is to make sure all the data is in the data warehouse,” she says, adding that she is working with different parts of the trust to create reports that work for them.

“We can tailor the report to different departments. It may be that you have got five reports for your role and you go online to extract them every day.

“With our new software can run the report with all the parameters you need. If you have to do a submission, we can put that online for you and send exactly what you need to you without you having to do all the work.”

Partington thrives on the buzz of coming up with something new, and always wants to make improvements. “It’s about automating the process. You don’t want the trust board to say they need information and having to say you can’t get it for them. That would be bad,” she says, deadpan.

Finding the hours in the day

The main struggle, she says, is that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. “Time is the main challenge,” she says, but then she’s happy to put in extra hours because: “Ultimately we all want to improve patient care. We are all part of that journey and we have to do the job the best we can.”

Sometimes though, all that work on NHS datasets, reporting tools and dashboard data makes Partington a little loopy. “I speak to my computer a lot,” she admits, before adding: “But that’s part of why I love my job.”


Fact box
Name:Angela “Angie” Partington
Most challenging part of her job: Time, there simply is not enough of it.
Three words to describe her (in the words of her boss): Hard working, innovative and fun

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