FAQs: NHSI Data Uploading service

Q: What are the technical requirements for the data uploading solution?
The solution uses a lightweight data scheduling application (which Beautiful Information provide) that is installed locally and run as a Windows service. Typically, this is on hosted in a Windows Virtual Server environment on existing hardware, with access to the internet HTTPS.  The application requires a small SQL Server database (SQL Server 2008 onwards, either standalone or a database on a pre-existing solution) and access to SQL tables that contain the required data. The storage and processing requirements are very low: all providers report that they are able to implement the solution within their existing technical infrastructure with no additional costs incurred.

Historical data is not held in the database, only the current data to be queued and the configuration details, so the data should be less than 20MB. A standard system backup will be sufficient (although keeping a record of the stored procedures with your data extraction queries would be advisable). Logfiles will be regularly cleaned by the application (every 30 days) and the database should not grow as it is not retaining historical data.

Q: How is the required data extracted?
Providers need to have the required data from the PAS or other systems available in an SQL database, available for the extraction queries, and the scheduler software requires access to this database to run the necessary queries. There are a number of ways to achieve this, with various levels of complexity. Some providers might be able to query the PAS system directly, a live mirror of the PAS Data, or a regular extract. Some providers might choose to create a separate SQL view of the required data, and point the scheduler application to that to run the necessary queries. We have worked with various providers using a range of systems, installing and using the data and will provide the necessary assistance to extract the data required.

Q: How does the application deal with any network security?
There is one-way communication to the NHS I Azure Service Bus server, which is not N3 hosted (although it might be in future). NHS I are using Shared Access Signature authentication on this server, and the configuration file downloaded by each Trust will provide a unique endpoint token.

Different organisations have different network security arrangements in place to handle outbound connections (such as authenticated proxies), which may require some adjustments to the configuration and/or local network rules. A configuration tool allows you to add proxy details, which you should be able to obtain from your IT department. Firewall rules may be required to allow outbound HTTPS traffic over Port 443 to the NHSI server at https://nhsiingest.servicebus.windows.net/.

Q: How much work is required to implement this solution?
This differs from provider to provider, but typically the solution can be implemented within a week. Installing the software and setting up the database is quick, but some troubleshooting might be required to ensure that the service can be automated and an outbound connection can be made to the NHS I server. Providers then need to create the extract queries in SQL to pull the required metrics together ready for uploading to NHSI. In some cases, this may already be being done but assistance can be provided as necessary.

Q: Do I need Information Governance approval for sending this data via the automated scheduler?
No, this is aggregate data that you already send manually each day. There is no patient level data and the data is sent securely solely between your trust and NHS I.

Q: How will I validate my returns?
NHS I provides a view of the data on a secure web portal where trusts can add or change values on screen and then authorise. You will be able to see previous admissions on the portal and edit and authorise returns for the last five days (up to and including the present/current day). For instructions on how to access and register to use this portal, refer to the Okta registration user guide by logging in to the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

There is also the option to auto-validate your return, i.e. to dispense with the manual validation process, if you are confident that your automated return does not need to be checked again once it has been submitted. Further details on how to achieve this can be found in the Okta portal once you have an account.

Q: Does this mean that I can stop submitting manually?
Yes. The aim of this project is to explore the ceasing of manual submission of data so that time is freed up locally for analysts to concentrate more time on understanding the working of their trust rather than being very busy simply submitting historical data. For those metrics you cannot automate, you will be required to submit and validate these manually via the NHS I collections portal.

Q: Is this just duplicating my work by setting up an automated feed while still submitting manually?
In the short-term, we will work with you to set up these automated feeds, while you are still submitting manually. The aim beyond that is to stop the requirement for manual submission where, and as soon as, possible.

Q: Who will be able to view this data once I send it?
The aim of NHS I is to publish the data at aggregate level through their site, the only change is in how the data is collected.

Q: Are there any plans to request the data more often than daily?

In addition to the mandatory daily submission, trusts can also opt into the Acute Near Real-time Submission, where trusts update key live information on trust operations every 15 minutes. This information can then be displayed in an app that is available for free from NHS I. For more details about the Acute Near Real-time Submission, please contact the Sitrep support team (nhsi.SITREPSupportTeam@nhs.net) or ross@beautifulinformation.org

Q: What technical support is available for this project?
Support for the application during deployment period will provided by Beautiful Information and NHS I. Questions relating to set-up and configuration of the local query agent are being addressed by Beautiful information; NHS I will be supporting the validation service. We would expect that local IT will provide support to ensure the service is operating and Trusts are responsible for the data which is submitted. Updates to the service may be required from time-to-time, but we do not envisage this being a regular occurrence. Beautiful Information (BI) can be contacted at ross@beautifulinformation.org, and your regional BI Account Managers are in place to support you. If you don’t know your regional BI Account Managers, please contact ross@beautifulinformation.org

Q: What if some of these measures are simple to send and others are much more difficult? Do we need to send all data items?
We are keen to understand as part of this project which metrics are most easy to collect and which may be more difficult. We ask that you provide what you can automate and any that are more difficult or only recorded occasionally, such as serious operational issues, are entered manually via the NHS I portal.

Q: I can’t see my data within the NHS I collections portal
*Check the GetData_NHSI_SITREP stored procedure. Ensure ReturnType is SITREP (and not sitrep, WinterSITREP, etc). Amend, and then resubmit your data.
* Check with your IT Team that there are no firewall or proxy issues. If there are, amend, and resubmit your data.
* Check that you are submitting data using your provider code. If you’re not, amend, and resubmit your data.

Q: I can’t access the NHS I collections portal
You will need to have had registered for access to Okta first – see below. To access the portal and to see your data, you will need to use the following URL (which will take you to the NHSI Data Collection app in Okta) and ensure that any previous bookmarks to the portal are removed/not being used: https://nhsi.okta-emea.com/app/UserHome. You should now be able to see your data within the portal. If you still can’t, contact the NHS I Support Team by email at: nhsi.sitrepsupportteam@nhs.net

Q: How do I access the NHS I collections portal?
You will need to have had registered for access to Okta first. Refer to the Okta registration user guide by logging in to the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

Q: How do I use the NHS I collections portal?
Refer to the NHS I collections portal user guide by logging in to the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

Q: Is there a delay in automated data from the scheduler entering the portal or should it be instant?
Lag time should be no more than two minutes.

Q: Where can I find supporting documentation?
Login to the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

Q: How do I access the implementation guide?
Contact your BI Account Manager (if known), otherwise contact ross@beautifulinformation.org

Q: Who do I contact if I have a metric query?
Metric queries should be forwarded to the NHS I Support Team by email at: nhsi.sitrepsupportteam@nhs.net

Q: Who do I contact if I have a metric definition query?
Metric definition queries should be emailed through to: england.dailysitrep@nhs.net

Q: Where can I find metric definitiona and IDs?
Login to the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

Q: Do I need to submit and validate my trust’s SitRep returns every day by 11am?
NHS I allows a five day window (up to and including the present day) to validate automated returns, and to submit and validate manual returns from the previous five days (up to and including the present day) to allow for staff absence, weekends and Public Holidays, and to correct any errors. However, any trusts that have not submitted and validated their Sitrep data by 11a.m. will be logged and contacted by the Sitrep support team.

Q: What is the minimum number of metrics which can be submitted by automation?
You should send all metrics which can automated by your trust. It is important that you do not submit only a single metric on its own, as this will be rejected – at least two metrics should be included in the submission.

Q: Metric id 352 is being rejected. Why?
From some trusts which are automating data, NHS I are receiving at regular intervals incorrect values like 1,0,2 for metric id 352. Consequently, these trusts are receiving rejection messages. NHS I will only accept returns as, for example, ‘OPEL 1’, etc. For successful submission, amend using this format, and resubmit your data.

Q: In the rejection report, it would be useful to have more information, including the metric definition name which is being rejected.
NHS I is currently working on this. Contact nhsi.sitrepsupportteam@nhs.net if you have any questions about your rejection report.

Q: Is there a document that specifies the data types and data ranges (where applicable) for all the metrics to prevent us from sending “incorrect” values in future?
This is currently in production along with a troubleshooting document. Once completed, they will be circulated to all trusts, and published in the implementation guide: https://nhsi.beautifulinformation.org/

If you have further questions, please email ross@beautifulinformation.org