When a cyber attack led to a UK-wide outage of the main IT platform used by most NHS 111, OOH and urgent care providers, Birmingham and District GP Emergency Room was able to expand the scope of its virtual waiting room pilot in order to safeguard patient safety.

Birmingham and District had been piloting Ummanu’s Virtual Waiting Room (VWR) alongside its existing patient management system. The aim was to improve patient flow through the out-of-hours and urgent care service.

Five months into the pilot the cyber attack occurred, affecting Adastra, the main IT platform used by Birmingham and District.

Initially, it implemented its hand-written manual business continuity arrangements in order to maintain the service for the patients. However, there were concerns over delays and patient safety.

Fay Wilson, medical director at Birmingham and District, said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to use technology and the VWR trial was going well, with cases per clinician hour up by 26%, but Ummanu provided a lifeline when the Adastra system went down.”

“The effectiveness of this recovery has saved around a week of potential downtime for every day of actual downtime, and at the time of writing, that would be around one year and counting,” she added.

The Ummanu team rapidly worked to design, build and implement a solution that would bring all the patient information straight from NHS 111 directly to the clinical team.

The solution meant that Birmingham and District were able to keep up with the workload and ensure that urgent patients were fast-tracked appropriately.

Itzik Levy, CEO at Ummanu, said:Our innovative partnership with Badger and the unfortunate outage allowed us an opportunity to demonstrate that high-functionality smart systems can manage patient flows and deliver exceptional quality of care with timely access.”

The virtual waiting room technology being piloted allows Birmingham and District to prioritise patients requiring a remote consultation.

When a clinician connects to the dashboard the next patient is ready for them according to priority and the system having already dialled and connected with the patient.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust rapidly deployed Attend Anywhere software, which included virtual waiting rooms, to keep patients safe and ensure staff could work efficiently.