OPINION: Analysing NHS System Integration & IT Services
Written by Julian Osborne, IMS MAXIMS (a provider of electronic patient records to the NHS and private sector)
The company has faced a turbulent time over the last twelve months and there were indications of future trouble. Yet the signing of new deals with high profile NHS organisations made it look, at least on the surface, that 2e2 would pull through.
The biggest concern for those trusts using the company’s services, many who relied solely on them to support their entire IT infrastructure, will undoubtedly be around business continuity. How will they continue to provide the same level of service themselves? How can they ensure that their IT applications, many of them now critical for the trust’s operations and more importantly to provide patient care, are not disrupted?
These are all valid and important questions that need answering but I wonder whether they would be asked if the NHS hadn’t chosen to outsource to a commercial company and instead it looked to other local trusts for support.
Several years ago, numerous NHS trusts desperately needed an external IT services provider to support their organisation, often they did not have the head count, capability nor the expertise in-house to ensure that they could implement, run and host the increasing systems that they needed.
Turn the clock forward to 2013 and I question whether, in today’s evolving and slightly more commercially focused NHS, trusts could pull on each other to do this themselves. Opportunities exist if trusts communicated in such a way where local NHS organisations understood each other's requirements, worked in partnership, shared IT services, drew on resources when required, and perhaps most importantly, provided back-up systems for each other and hosted each other’s data.
This doesn’t even need to happen with a trust’s next-door neighbour, services could be mirrored locally and even regionally, reducing duplication, cutting costs and potentially providing far greater stability ensuring that patient data is readily available and in turn accessible at the point of care.
On top of that it would help NHS organisations, many of which may now be reluctant to outsource to such IT providers, to de-risk the situation. Although recent months have seen trusts put into administration, it is highly unlikely that NHS organisations will experience the same type of issues as 2e2.
Traditionally, technology professionals used to join the NHS, gain experience and then head off to the private sector (often only to be re-employed as a commercial entity). This is happening less and less as talent appears to be far more greatly embedded in the NHS. Now the NHS needs to empower its champions to be more commercially minded and ambitious.
There are a number of organisations already pushing boundaries in this area, for example St Helen’s and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is already working with IMS MAXIMS to host data from other healthcare organisations, not only within the NHS but also the private sector.
The trust is ready and willing to work with other like-minded organisations, public or private and better understand how it can cross-sell its IT systems and services into the NHS and private market.
Of course, there is a time and a place where organisations, such as 2e2 are of crucial importance to NHS organisations in need of their support and expertise; but my question is that in a risk averse NHS, is it simply less risky and more beneficial all around to invest in leveraging the knowledge and IT of our fellow NHS organisations?