Publish date: 18 March 2024

Two UCLH projects from our Coordination Centre have been shortlisted for this year’s HSJ Digital Awards, which recognise innovative digital work that is transforming care delivery, enhancing efficiency, and improving patient outcomes.

Both projects focus on how technology can be used to improve the ‘flow’ of patients through our hospitals – in other words, reducing delays in admitting patients, transferring them to the right places and, when appropriate, discharging them home again. 

The projects are entitled ‘Real-time Predictions of Emergency Bed Demand to Improve Patient Flow Information’, which is shortlisted in the ‘Driving Change through Data and Analytics Award’ and ‘Improving patient flow with high-quality real-time data, virtual flow huddles and predictive analytics’, which is shortlisted in the ‘Improving Urgent and Emergency Care through Digital Award.’

‘Real-time Predictions of Emergency Bed Demand to Improve Patient Flow Information’ is led by Craig Wood, who is a deputy clinical operations manager with an interest in data science and AI at UCLH and Dr Zella King, health data scientist in the Clinical Operational Research Unit at UCL and honorary consultant at UCLH. The project demonstrates how machine learning technology can use real-time Emergency Department data to predict how many patients will need an emergency bed later that day, and in which part of the hospital.

Many UK hospitals are currently operating at capacity, and the demand for emergency beds is high. By predicting short-term incoming emergency demand across the hospital, the tool can help operational staff ensure there are enough beds in relevant wards to minimise impact on patients. 

As patients move through our ED, the machine learning tool incorporates additional data – such as vital signs, blood test results and whether a patient has or will have a consult with specialist doctors – and updates its forecast every 30 minutes. It also predicts how many people will enter the emergency department and need a bed within eight hours, assuming the Emergency Department is meeting its targets for wait times.  

Early tests suggest the tool is better at predicting bed demand than standard methods. 

The team trained the tool to do this using electronic health records from more than 166,000 patients who visited our Emergency Department between August 2021 and August 2022. 

If you’d like to know more, watch this presentation Zella and Craig gave at the Health and Care Analytics Conference in July 2023. This talk won the best paper in the NHS England stream at the conference and the UCL team behind the work has been nominated for the London Higher healthcare partnership of the year. Read more.

Led by Clinical Operations Manager Lorraine Walton, ‘Improving patient flow with high-quality real-time data, virtual flow huddles and predictive analytics’ involves using a combination of data analytics from patient records and  virtual meetings three times a day with representatives from all areas, from wards &  theatres to portering and transport, to minimise frustrations and delays in the delivery of patient care. The use of flow huddles  also means we can better educate  staff about their role in supporting patient flow from the front door to the moment when each patient leaves our care. We use the huddles to promote planning for pre 12 discharges and use of our patient lounge.”

The primary value of the flow huddles, using real time information from our electronic health record system, is improved patient flow and thus improved patient experience. We have been able to reduce wait times for inpatient beds for patients at the start of their journey and also reduce the wait time and improve the communication and confidence around patient discharge activity. They are  also a tangible way to embed our four trust values of kindness, safety, improvement and teamwork.

The HSJ received 343 entries for this year’s Digital Awards, with 165 projects and individuals meriting inclusion on the final shortlist. 

It said: “The high volume – and exceptional quality – of applications once again mirrors the impressive levels of innovation and care continually being developed across the UK’s healthcare system. Following the thorough judging process, UCLH was shortlisted, ahead of the official awards ceremony to be held on 6 June 2024, for standing out as a real ‘success story’ worthy of a prized place on the panel’s shortlist.”

UCLH chief executive David Probert said: “At UCLH, we’re always looking for ways to improve the service and care we provide for our patients, and embracing new digital technology is a vital part of this. I’m proud that work at UCLH has been shortlisted again this year, showing that we’re continuing to take a leading role, developing smart and efficient approaches that will benefit not only our hospitals, but, hopefully, the wider healthcare sector too.”

The selected winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Manchester Central on 6 June 2024. The 2024 awards judging panel is once again made up of a diverse range of highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community, including; Olubukola (Buki) Adeyemo, Chief Executive, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, Hatim Abdulhussein, National Clinical Lead, AI and Digital Workforce (WT&E), NHS England, Dame Margaret Whitehead, Chair, Independent Review Equity in Medical Devices and Luke Readman, Regional Director of Digital Transformation, NHS England (London). The full list of nominees for the 2024 HSJ Digital Awards can be found at