I’m Jonny and I’ve been a software developer at TPP for over ten years. I’ve always really enjoyed my job, but this year has been on another level! In the last few months I’ve worked with some of the leading academics in healthcare research, built a database to support the largest Covid research study done by anyone in the world to date and collaborated on a research paper which has been submitted for peer review in a high impact journal, alongside moving house and becoming a dad to twins!

This (excluding the house and babies, obviously) has come from the work I’ve done on the OpenSAFELY project – a collaboration between TPP, Oxford University, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to perform large scale research in order to help with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our aims were ambitious: build a pseudonimised research database of coded medical data from the patient records of 40% of the population (that’s 24 million patients and over 20 billion coded entries!) and find a way for the academics to access and analyse the data without having to move it from our data centres. The analyses need to be done quickly, accurately, and securely. The time taken to set this up, from scratch, including producing the first research paper was just 42 days.

This has been a massive achievement – firstly due to our initial findings on Covid-19 risk factors (you can see our results here), but also because of the cutting-edge work we did to build the platform which allows the data to be analysed without being moved. The project has had loads of media attention, and was even featured in The Economist, which was huge. It was something I could show my friends and family and say, ‘look what we have done!’

I am unbelievably proud of what we have achieved in such a short period of time on OpenSAFELY; the project is one good thing to have come out of the current crisis. It has forced us, along with the developers/clinicians/epidemiologists at the Oxford DataLab and LSHTM, to work more collaboratively and quickly than ever.

The collaborative nature of the project is one of the most exciting parts about its development. We are all driven by a real belief in the importance of what we are doing and the impact it will have on our understanding of how Covid-19 affects different people. So much so that all communications happen unbelievably quickly and you can really feel the enthusiasm from every single person involved. It is amazing to feel like a valued part of the team, and to really contribute something to such a ground-breaking project.

That’s the best bit about continuing to work during lockdown, too. My partner and I had twins (twins!) in January, and obviously I worry about their health, and the NHS appointments that have been cancelled because of the lockdown, just as people all over the world are worrying about their families. Of course it would be great to be home spending time with my kids, but I’m glad that I can channel my nervous energy about the whole thing into making a positive difference through my work. This is particularly true with working on the OpenSAFELY project, which will directly help us to understand the virus – an absolutely essential step towards getting us out of lockdown safely and as soon as possible. I’ve always been proud of the work TPP does to support the NHS (and healthcare systems worldwide), but now this work feels even closer to home and more important than ever. There are loads more studies lined up for OpenSAFELY and I’m excited to see what results come out of them.

In the eleven years I’ve worked at TPP, the size and global impact of the company has definitely changed, but our ethos never has. We still have the lives of patients and healthcare staff at the forefront of everything we do, and we are working harder than ever to keep up that level of support when they need it most.

Jonny Cockburn

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