Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has ripped out its old Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution and replaced it with a heavily customised new one, which has been implemented by Optevia, and is being used to analyse stakeholder engagement activity.

The Trust's GP Stakeholder engagement team was established in January last year to work with partners in the area, namely GPs, to gain feedback on what action could be taken to improve healthcare services across the six districts in the region.

We spoke to Tom Bell, GP stakeholder engagement manager at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who said that the Trust struggled with the previous Microsoft CRM solution because it was too standardised and didn't allow the team to develop new fields to capture data within.

"When the team was set up there was an old Microsoft CRM system in place, which had been provided by another supplier, but the Trust had its fingers burnt a little bit with that. It was one of those situations where you set up a relationship with a supplier without realising what level of support you are going to require," said Bell.

"The Microsoft system on its own isn't of great value to an organisation like ours, or to many others, frankly. You need a partner that can continuously tailor stuff for you. You need to understand from a developer's point of view what matters to you, and they need to pull that out, record the right things and visualise them."

He added: "I think that's why we fell down with the previous Microsoft Dynamics system - there was nobody looking at it and asking: how do we take this forward now? You need to keep developing these things, otherwise they die a horrible, slow death."

The Trust's new CRM system took approximately six months to implement and the team has met with over 300 organisations and captured data from 600 meetings to improve healthcare services in the area.

Bell said that the stakeholder engagement team, coupled with the use of the CRM tool, is allowing the Trust to look beyond just meeting its required targets.

"I think partnership is one of the most abused terms of the last 20 years. We now operate in a climate of needing to do more with less and I think one of the most useful things that will come out of these times of austerity is a real concept of what partnership means," he said.

"We are collecting information and data from our partners on how our services work for them, which allows me to go to a director, hold up a visualisation from the CRM, and say: for this time period, for this area, we engaged with X number of stakeholders and they think these certain things need improving. It's very powerful."

He added: "It's easy to look at a dashboard and say we are hitting our CQC and monitoring targets, but I think what adds real value is conversations with partners and stakeholders on how services can be improved. Engagement in the public sector is often a bit of a tokenistic gesture, but we are keen to capture this stuff and bring it to life."