Written evidence submitted by Andrew Edmunds, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (DHS0035)
Care of patients and service users:
- We have the most hands-on experience of some elements of commitment 3, and the new functionality linking the NHS App to our patient portal. For commitment 3, we have seen the most progress made at a regional level, through initiatives such as the Great North Care Record. This is very worthwhile initiative, with precisely the right aims, however with any initiative of this type there is an interoperability risk by basing it from a single system, which may – in future – create unintended limitations on the information shared both between NHS organisations and with patients.
- We are currently in the process of procuring a patient portal, and many of the applicants to this procurement have been part of the NHS App pathfinder initiative, to link to our booking and patient administration systems through the NHS App. We will soon be entering into a contract with a provider for this functionality, and so can provide further evidence on the use case and patient experience at a later date.
The health of the population
- Data has been a critical part of our research and development work for many years, both with our NIHR / centrally funded research and commercial research. Our R&D team is of a size to both attract high-end researchers and studies whilst remaining agile and flexible in how we take forward research and development. This has led to the continued success of the department, and continued commercial interest.
- A key part of this agility is managing our data protection and governance requirements through research. The R&D team work very closely with the data services team to ensure that the data required for research is easily shareable, with all the relevant governance, security and protections agreed rapidly.
- Given both of these, it is difficult to directly determine whether the national programme highlighted in ‘commitment 1’ has actively supported to this situation on the frontline, but it has certainly not hindered.
Cost and efficiency of care
- Routes to market in the digital space are broadly speaking very good. Our strategy is to have relationships with tier 1 suppliers (i.e. infrastructure, base/core products) and invest in the development capabilities to develop our own solutions alongside purchasing ‘off the shelf’ products. National frameworks such as G-Cloud have been very helpful in streamlining purchasing decisions, for both software and hardware.
- We are also working to streamline our internal procurement processes, where for more complex digital projects with multiple levels of functionality the time taken to reach a decision with market engagement can take time. This is work that we are progressing internally, and seeking to maximise our use national frameworks such as g-cloud.
- There is still a challenge in initiating relationships between technology firms and NHS organisations. We aim to focus these based on ‘need’, or user requirements from a trust / patient / population health point of view. Frameworks such as G-Cloud could benefit from additional signposting or a search / filtering function to drill down to what NHS organisations are looking for the unmet need.
Workforce literacy and the digital workforce
- To date we have had reasonable success in recruiting and creating our own digital workforce. As mentioned above, the focus of our digital workforce (as a result of our digital strategy) is skewed more towards developers than other equivalent NHS organisations. This has its challenges in creating posts that are desirable and competitive in what is a very competitive market.
- In recognising this, we have sought to ensure that our digital strategy – which is focussed around developing our own capabilities and solutions to support our clinical teams to have a digital system, supported by multiple products, that works for them and their patients in the best way possible – is front and centre in our recruitment, and shows that there is onward progression available. We have also sought to be competitive with salaries and have invested in modern office space, with a strong flexible working ethic.
- We have also sought to ensure that we have good relationships with higher and further education providers, and are examining apprenticeship and other structured learnings to funnel and direct the expertise we need to the trust. These have yet to fully bear fruit but we expect them to in the coming years.
Director of Innovation
2 November 2022