UPRNs – supporting the response to COVID-19

  • techUK techUK
    Tuesday26May 2020

    Richard Duffield and Gayle Gander, GeoPlace, discuss how we can help people faster and better during the COVID-19 response when we know where, exactly, to deliver...

When we know where people are, we can help them faster and we can help them better. Today, with COVID-19 affecting us all, we’ve never been more dependent on the ability of our health services, local and central government to deliver vital support measures and services exactly where they’re needed most.

From policy-making managers to front-line key workers, everyone needs information they can trust to help keep us safe. But there’s one simple, common question that has to be answered in every part of that complex process – where, exactly, should everything be happening?


The need to response to COVID-19 has accelerated a shift towards citizen centric, preventative and data-driven models of health and social care.

Last week the LGA warned that

“Crucial data must be shared with councils, so their local knowledge and expertise can ensure that track and trace activities succeed.”

Based on our experiences working with central government and local government to help support their response to COVID-19 we’ve mapped the data flows from central to local government, as we see them so far, in the following infographic.

The NHS knows who has a medical condition that makes them vulnerable. Sharing this data with councils – securely, safely – helps key teams to provide the right support. This can be very finely targeted support too, when that information is cross-referenced to other sources of data such as social care records. However, linking those data sources together isn’t easy.

In Wales, local government has already overcome this challenge by validating the address data they hold, and performing spatial analysis that delivers meaningful, valuable insights. NHS England is responding too now, by making sure the address data in its Master Patient Index is complete, accurate and up to date as possible and contains the Unique Property Reference Number and British National Grid Coordinates. It will be shared with partners across health and central and local government to support the response to COVID-19.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Government Digital Service (GDS) now host an online facility for people to register as being vulnerable. MHCLG will validate the address data submitted, and enrich it before sharing it with partners.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) runs two programmes dealing with food delivery; for shielded vulnerable people supplying basic food provision and for non-shielded vulnerable people a supermarket referral scheme with participating local authorities and supermarkets.

Food is supplied to shielded people in two ways:

  • Delivery of food parcels by wholesalers contracted by Defra
  • Supermarket referral

The data flow to wholesalers and supermarkets is managed through GDS under data sharing agreements.

For non-shielded vulnerable people, Defra is managing a programme for local authority supermarket referrals for priority delivery slots.  Local authorities that join the programme enter details of non-shielded people in need of food delivery, validating the addresses at source and enriching with the unique identifiers and coordinates. Defra compiles the data and passes them on to participating supermarkets who match the data against their customer base and offer a priority slot back to the non- shielded person.

To support non-shielded people, Defra has a data sharing agreement with participating local authorities and supermarkets.

The lessons learned during the response to COVID-19 are likely to be wide-ranging and point to the potential to transform the way data is used to drive a citizen-centric and preventative model of heath and social care. Achieving this transformation will required coordinated strategic thinking and investment. As well as evaluating the benefits careful consideration must be given to the data that’s been shared to support the response to COVID-19, and which datasets should or shouldn’t be shared on an ongoing basis.  

For further details read our case studies on using the UPRN to respond to COVID-19.

To read more from techUK's Data Analytics week, visit our landing page by visiting here!

  • Katherine Mayes

    Katherine Mayes

    Programme Manager | Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI
    T 020 7331 2019

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