Healthy sharing puts Kent NHS IT in the lead

A new wave of government business technology leader is actively creating streamlined public sector services. To date each individual county, NHS Trust, emergency service or borough has an individual IT service. With government debt at an all time high, a stagnant world economy and the banking crisis continuing it’s the collaborative nature of CIOs that is driving public sector organisations to share and approach their business models differently.

Richard Gifford is Managing Director of Kent and Medway Health Informatics Service, a shared services organisation in Kent that has up to 280 IT professionals delivering technology services to 15 health providers, four acute hospitals at three NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCT) and one local mental health trust.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is the legal entity that hosts the Health Informatics Service (HIS), including the provision of accommodation for the organisation.

Gifford explains that three years ago the HIS was a managed service for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and not a healthy organisation.

“I came three years ago with the customer’s eyes and it was basically a failed organisation with weak governance,” Gifford says. “There was a need for transformation and I came here as an interim to begin that turnaround.” Gifford has remained with the organisation that was set up in 2003 and today it is breaking even and has its eyes on making a profit.

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The HIS has a budget of £12 million, the bulk of which goes on the payroll. Computacentre, Dell, HP, BT, IBM Cognos are the primary technology suppliers to the HIS.

Since the coalition government came into power the NHS has been at the centre of policy and operational reform as the Conservatives seek to put GPs at the centre of decision making.

“There is a huge amount going on with the change to Commissioning Groups coming into force in 2013 and the end of the PCTs. The fragmentation of the PCT into Commissioning Groups means we have to forge relationships with the GPs,” he says. Gifford has no choice but to embrace the change.

“It is a brilliant opportunity to help these new services. It is all about the stakeholder management piece and how you manage it,” he says of his organisation’s role. “We are meeting with the GPs and Commissioning Groups as much as we can, so we are not waiting for things to happen. We are in a really good position because we are in the NHS.

Before the coalition Commissioning Group policy disrupted the NHS, the previous government spearheaded its NHS reform agenda around the National Programme for IT that sought to create a central single IT platform for the entire NHS. The controversial strategy provided NHS trusts across the country with benefits and obstacles in equal measure. Gifford explains that Kent as a county was not a big adopter of the National Programme for IT, the mail and imaging platforms were adopted, but the Cerner and major administration systems were not adopted.

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