Influence of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance outputs produced by the UK health security agency (UKHSA) outbreak surveillance team on decision-making by local stakeholders

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Willgert, Katriina 
Hardstaff, Jo 
Shadwell, Stephanie 
Bhattacharya, Alex 
Blomquist, Paula 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:sec jats:titleBackground</jats:title> jats:pThe UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) COVID-19 Outbreak Surveillance Team (OST) was established in June 2020 to provide Local Authorities (LAs) in England with surveillance intelligence to aid their response to the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. Reports were produced using standardised metrics in an automated format. Here we evaluate how the SARS-CoV-2 surveillance reports influenced decision making, how resources evolved and how they could be refined to meet the requirements of stakeholders in the future.</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleMethods</jats:title> jats:pPublic health professionals (n = 2,400) involved in the COVID-19 response from the 316 English LAs were invited to take part in an online survey. The questionnaire covered five themes: (i) report use; (ii) influence of surveillance outputs on local intervention strategies; (iii) timeliness; (iv) current and future data requirements; and (v) content development.</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleResults</jats:title> jats:pOf the 366 respondents to the survey, most worked in public health, data science, epidemiology, or business intelligence. Over 70% of respondents used the LA Report and Regional Situational Awareness Report daily or weekly. The information had been used by 88% to inform decision making within their organisations and 68% considered that intervention strategies had been instituted as a result of these decisions. Examples of changes instigated included targeted communications, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, and the timing of interventions. Most responders considered that the surveillance content had reacted well to evolving demands. The majority (89%) said that their information requirements would be met if the surveillance reports were incorporated into the COVID-19 Situational Awareness Explorer Portal. Additional information suggested by stakeholders included vaccination and hospitalisation data as well as information on underlying health conditions, infection during pregnancy, school absence and wastewater testing.</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleConclusions</jats:title> jats:pThe OST surveillance reports were a valuable information resource used by local stakeholders in their response to the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. Control measures that affect disease epidemiology and monitoring requirements need to be considered in the continuous maintenance of surveillance outputs. We identified areas for further development and, since the evaluation, information on repeat infections and vaccination data have been included in the surveillance reports. Furthermore, timeliness of publications has been improved by updating the data flow pathways.</jats:p> </jats:sec>


Acknowledgements: We thank all survey participants for their valuable feedback and colleagues at the UKHSA Outbreak Surveillance Team for their inputs.

Epidemiological intelligence, Surveillance reports, Evaluation, SARS-CoV-2, Pandemic preparedness, Outbreak response, Surveillance methods, COVID-19
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BMC Public Health
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M011194/1)