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Website developed by Oxford Uni students speeds up Covid vaccine rollout

Vaximap has helped GP surgeries reach over 200,000 housebound patients since January.

Two Oxford University students have created a website for GP surgeries, to help them deliver Covid-19 vaccinations to the UK's 1 million housebound patients. 

Vaximap lets staff plot the best walking or driving routes and has already allowed them to reach over 200,000 people since it launched at the start of the year.

Two engineering DPhil students at Oxford are behind the website, saying it's a 'direct response to a problem reported by GP practices of how to deliver huge numbers of Covid-19 vaccines to housebound patients on top of already busy workloads.'

Since January, 20,000 routes have been calculated and the team estimates around £400,000 has been saved by the NHS in time efficiencies (9000 hours of work).

Dr Robert Staruch, a DPhil student at Oxford's Department of Engineering Science, realised the demands of meeting vaccine targets in a vulnerable housebound population was a massive extra task, and one which he could help to streamline.

Dr Staruch says: 'My friend was manually mapping his housebound patient locations in order to then plan routes for him to vaccinate them by car. I felt there was established platforms that could be utilised to streamline this into a much more efficient process.

"This vaccine roll-out requires high levels of efficiency to reduce dose wastage, and maximise roll-out amongst the vulnerable. VaxiMap does this.'

Teaming up with colleague, Thomas Kirk, the pair realised they could help by creating software which plotted the optimal routes for home visits, factoring in precise dosing schedules and offering both walking and driving options for rural or urban settings.

Healthcare professionals can upload Excel documents of anonymised patient postcodes and the VaxiMap website will sort the patients into the optimal order and map the routes.

Thomas Kirk says: 'Because we were speaking directly to GPs, we knew exactly what was needed, so my job was to build the simplest possible thing that ticked all their boxes.

"The whole project - and the fact that we were able to get it online in 48 hours - is testament to the power of open-source software. All the tools we've used are freely available for anyone to access.'

Robert Staruch, a trainee Burns & Plastic surgeon in the Defence Medical Services, reached out to colleagues at jHubMed for support of the project.

They supported with £7,500 towards costs and Military vaccine teams have adopted the software for their vaccine routes.

Oxford University Innovation (OUI) and Magdalen College also contributed to the project, while Microsoft came on board as technical partner via its Bing mapping services.

The developers - Thomas and Robert - hope the tech will provide an-going tool for the NHS in the future.

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