Building a digital NHS: insights from the UK’s leading NHS Trusts
On the 5th July 1948, the NHS was launched by the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, at Park Hospital in Manchester (known today as Trafford General Hospital). For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide services for free at the point of delivery. Over the last 70 years, the NHS has transformed the health and wellbeing of the nation and become the envy of the world but to remain effective the NHS needs to change.
Last week, the UK’s new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock urged the NHS embrace transformational change and specifically, to use more apps to provide convenience for patients as well as enabling clinicians to operate more efficiently. This news comes as the NHS prepares to launch an app that will allow NHS patients to book GP appointments and access their medical records. The app will form part of NHS England’s wider strategy to digitise the heath service. NHS Digital and NHS England will make the jointly-developed app available through the App Store or Google Play by December 2018.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the NHS. It’s no secret that the NHS is going through a period of instability and uncertainty. Hancock’s statement was met with mixed reviews with the Labour party stating that the Conservative government had made big cuts to some NHS budgets like capital funding, which has meant the NHS hasn’t been able to take advantage of new technologies. But Mr Hancock insisted that embracing new digital technology is important despite one clinician taking to Twitter to argue that “what the NHS really needs is basic, humdrum, fit-for purpose IT along with computer’s that don’t crash and upgrades to Window’s XP.” So are we expecting too much of the NHS? Do we need to take a step back before we leap forward?
Despite UK government guidelines making it mandatory for central government – and strongly recommended in the public sector as a whole – to evaluate public cloud solutions before all others; less than a third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed, and under two thirds (61%) of central government departments, have adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation. But those that are in the process of preparing for digital transformation and those that have already moved to public cloud are already seeing benefits. Let’s take a look inside some of the UK’s leading Trusts and how they’re managing with the differing stages of digital transformation to transform the way they deliver their life-saving services.
Salisbury are at the beginning of their transformational journey. The Trust recognised they were being restricted by their legacy infrastructure and were therefore looking for ways to assess, transform and modernise its infrastructure services. The trust embarked on a Readiness Assessment to gain an independent strategic recommendation, accompanied by a full business case. By carrying out the assessment, potential adjustments were flagged that will enhance the way they deliver their life-saving services to the local community.
Tavistock and Portman are embarking on a journey to create an entirely digital hospital. To deliver this, the Trust has invested in a new network solution and fully managed service which will underpin both student and patient record systems, and will help to speed up checking-in processes, as well as enabling remote patient care and trust-wide scheduling. The Trust is already paper-light and has experienced substantial growth over the last few years. They plan to continue expanding services over the next five years and will start to execute its digitally-enabled Transformation strategy.
Further along in their journey to transformation is The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust. They have already moved to a cloud-first strategy, removing their reliance on on-premises legacy hardware. Migrating to the cloud has enabled the trust to streamline its internal processes, speed up its networks and improve the patient experience. By having the ability to spin up new environments in under an hour, the trust has become more efficient in the way it works. For example, staff can now rapidly place orders for new healthcare equipment and stock so that it is possible to get services to patients more quickly.
Despite the concerns of moving to cloud and a lack of government funding, Trusts that have taken the lead are beginning to see an ROI and it is hoped that other Trusts who are yet to embark on their digital transformation journey’s will soon follow suit, or risk being left behind.
Don’t miss this short interview with Joanna Smith, CIO of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS as she discusses what inspired the Trust to move to public cloud, how they started their cloud journey and how they have managed the operational shift.