COVID-19 project spotlight: NHS Digital - Isolation note service

Date posted
4 May 2020
Reading time
7 Minutes

Relieving pressure on GP practices by helping the NHS issue over one million isolation notes online.

Isolation note service screenshot


Kainos in partnership with BJSS, worked with NHS Digital to rapidly build and deploy an online service that allows an employee to generate an isolation note if they are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Isolation notes provide employees with the necessary evidence for their employers to self-isolate for seven days without the need to visit their doctor, therefore helping to relieve strain on GP practices and minimise the risk of the virus spreading by enabling those affected to stay at home.

From inception to go-live, the service was built remotely in just two weeks using adapted agile techniques, a Kanban delivery approach and mob programming.

The service has generated over one million isolation notes to date, freeing GPs up to dedicate more time and attention to patients who need the most help.

Service summary

The isolation note service can be accessed via multiple channels including the NHS website and NHS App. Designed with simplicity and accessibility in mind, the service is fronted by a questionnaire that is both intuitive and quick to complete.

Users are guided through the questionnaire - and can access explanatory notes for each question if needed inputting basic details and outlining the reason for their need to self-isolate. Once the questionnaire has been submitted, a digital isolation note is generated and sent via email to the employee or directly to their employer.

Since going live, the team has continued to support the service with additional functionality, including giving employers the ability to check an isolation note, as well as developing a help and support page with FAQs.

Project highlights

Distributed working at scale

Tasked with delivering the service remotely, the multi-disciplinary team adopted a mob programming approach, with the entire team attending video conference calls to increase communication and collaboration and resolve blockers and issues at pace.

Rapid response to changing requirements

Throughout development, the underlying policy governing the creation and handling of isolation notes was being reviewed and changing daily. This brought about changes to requirements which saw the team amending or creating new functionality and deploying updates quickly and diligently.     

Building for performance at national scale

Scalability and performance were key considerations from the very beginning. The service was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the budget statement, and this level of exposure, coupled with a genuine need for the service to be made available to the public immediately, meant that it needed to endure peak traffic levels from go-live. A distributed means of performance testing was developed to ensure requirements around scalability and resiliency were met. 

DevOps and security 

The service used an automated pipeline first approach. Leveraging PaaS offerings in Azure, an automated path through to production was established - both for application and environment changes. This included adding web security scanning, breaking the build if any suspected vulnerabilities were added.

Tech stack

  • Microsoft Azure
    • App Service ASP.NET Core web application
    • Functions
    • Cosmos DB
    • Blob Storage
  • GOV.UK Notify for sending emails