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UCLH CIO James Thomas on unified communications
UCLH CIO James Thomas on negotiating regulatory scrutiny

University College London Hospital CIO James Thomas is somewhat of a trail-blazer, overhauling the organisations internal communications with a managed unified comms service that improves its abilities to cope with the healthcare demands of the capital.

The ICT ­Director has few deals, but his key partners Azzurri, Logica and GE are talked of in glowing terms: tog­ether the vendors and UCLH have struck deals that deliver for all involved.

“UCLH is unique in the NHS. I have not seen any trust that has the same drive for innovation that UCLH has. It is a challenge, as it never stops and leads to intense times, but you can do exciting things.”

Thomas ­always refers to his vendors as partners, “not suppliers and a contract”. His reason for this is that having worked at Oracle, he has seen the other side of the contract.

“Logica are very good if the contract says ABC, but if we find we need CDF they are good at understanding that too. They have been really good at getting inside the business. I want consistency and that’s what I get from all my partners.

“As we go forwards strategically as a trust we try to consolidate suppliers. Prior to working with Azzurri we had 21 separate telecommunications deals, now we have that as one managed services deal.”

He found the same contract sprawl for copiers (five contracts), and again it is down to one deal that saves the trust £120,000 per annum. He opted for a deal with Xerox,­ managed through the existing long-standing services deal with Logica to free UCLH from costly admin.

He has instigated an intelligence-gathering exercise for use of colour and monotone printing, which is helping change the usage behaviour of the staff. Non-urgent printing goes out to printing companies, which is cheaper.

Alongside his consolidation skills, on arrival Thomas had to negotiate a new deal with IDX Systems Corporation.

The US healthcare software provider had won the London and South East England parts of the NHS National Programme for IT debacle, but in late 2005 General Electric Healthcare acquired IDX and immediately began pulling out of the UK and extricating itself from the NHS deal.

“We turned that attitude around and again brought in Logica as a sub-contrac­tor. We have since re-signed with GE for five years and established common ground on what we both need,” Thomas says.