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Essex data scientists work with NHS Trust to help manage resources in COVID-19 battle

  • Date

    Thu 23 Apr 20

Image of a virus

Scientists from the University of Essex are collaborating with the local NHS Trust to help manage resources to fight COVID-19.

For the past month, the University team has been working round the clock with doctors to develop and improve an epidemiological model to help predict the day-by-day changes in resource needs at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).

Led by Dr Vito De Feo, from the University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE), the scientists have been drawing on academic teams from around the UK and the world to gather data to help refine the model, which is being used by the NHS Trust, led by its Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation, Dr Shane Gordon.

IT experts at Essex have created a secure internet connection between ESNEFT and the University’s computer networks to allow the doctors to use the epidemiological model in real-time from the hospital.

The University and ESNEFT recently signed an agreement with ambitious plans for working together on a wide range of health matters and challenges facing us in the 21st century. This current collaboration to help manage resources to fight COVID-19 is the first project as part of this agreement.

Explaining the project, Dr De Feo, who is an artificial intelligence and neuroscience expert, said: "Our team of scientists are working to predict the progress of the virus and how this links to how resources are distributed among the hospitals. We are honoured to work with the local NHS and, in particular, with Dr James Pawsey, Emily Bosley, John Wilding and with all the wonderful team led by Dr Shane Gordon.”

He added: “The epidemiological data relating to Italy, Spain, the US and France, where the infection is already in an advanced state, will be extremely important.”

Dr Gordon said: “We are hugely grateful for the support from the University of Essex, which combined with some fantastic work by our colleagues at ESNEFT is helping us to plan where our resources are needed most from day to day as we continue the fight against COVID-19.”

The developed data may also be useful, as a model, for the entire UK.

The Essex team currently includes (in alphabetic order): Dr Mays Al-Naday, Dr Jon Chamberlain, Dr Caterina Cinel, Professor Luca Citi, Ian Dukes, Dr Mario Gutierrez-Roig, Dr Anish Jindal, Dr Stella Hadjiantoni, Dr Andrew Harrison, Dr Anna Hughes, Dr Gundi Knies, Professor Meena Kumari, Dr Ana Matran-Fernandez, Dr Tasos Papastylianou, Professor Riccardo Poli, Dr Dmitry Savostyanov, Professor Reinhold Scherer, Dr Anna Sergi, Dr Loes Van Dam, Professor Anthony Vickers, and Nick Warren. Other University staff have also offered to join the team if needed.

Professor Anthony Vickers, the Head of CSEE, said: “I am so proud of Vito and his team and only hope that the work can help in some way to save lives, and help our dedicated NHS staff.”