National database launches more detailed swine flu reports

17 Jul 2009

Following the rapid rise in the spread of swine flu, the QSurveillance primary care tracking database has increased the level of detail provided in its weekly and daily reports to government and health authorities.

The system – part of a not-for-profit partnership between leading healthcare IT specialist EMIS and the University of Nottingham – automatically collects anonymous patient data from GP surgeries across the UK on a daily basis, providing a real-time picture of the spread of the disease.

Daily and weekly reports are filed to the Health Protection Agency, the Department of Health and health authorities across the country.

Currently, 3,500 GP practices using EMIS computer systems – covering a population of 23 million patients – are contributing to the database, with more GPs coming on line all the time.  The system is believed to be the largest, most up-to-date real-time health tracking system worldwide.

Following huge increases in cases of swine flu in the UK in recent weeks, QSurveillance® is now providing a more detailed anlaysis of a wider range of measurements, to enable more precise resource planning.

Daily reporting now includes:

  • patients reporting flu-like symptoms in the last day
  • patients with flu who have been prescribed antivirals
  • patients prescribed antivirals without a confirmed flu diagnosis
  • hospital admissions related to flu
  • the uptake of flu vaccinations
  • plus a wide range of other, more general public health indicators such as the uptake of childhood immunisations and patients reporting severe asthma or vomiting and diarrhoea
  • data on deaths related to flu is already being captured and will be added to the reports in the coming weeks.

Dr David Stables, medical director of EMIS and a Director of QSurveillance®, said: “This powerful tool is enabling NHS planners to quickly identify swine flu hot spots across the UK, so that resources can be focused where they are needed most.

“The database gives the Department of Health an accurate national picture of the disease, as well helping local services to respond more effectively. We are encouraging even more GPs to sign up, to ensure we have the most comprehensive picture available.”

Daily reports are provided in table and graph format, and include comparisons with previous weeks and months, as well as regions with the highest instances of the disease

Data is uploaded automatically from a surgery’s computer system, requiring no extra time or effort on the part of the GP.


“With thousands more swine flu cases being confirmed every day, Qsurveillance® has a vital role to play in helping the NHS meet this major resource challenge”

Julia Hippisley-Cox, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and director of QSurveillance

“Due to the flexibility of the system, we have quickly been able to update the reports we are providing to give an even more detailed picture to support the planning and delivery of vaccines and other resources.

“The database will also enable us to describe the epidemiology of the virus, monitor changes in its behaviour, and highlight the type of patient most affected. This data can then be used to make further essential predictions.”

In previous years, QSurveillance® has been used to track Flu B outbreaks and mumps epidemics.