George Eliot Hospital shows NHS IT can be in good health

Recent news paints an unflattering picture of technology in the National Health Service (NHS). This year alone the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley branded the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) as an “expensive farce”, two suppliers (Accenture and Fujitsu) have pulled out of the programme, the Department for Health CIO responsible for the programme resigned in June, it emerged that cancelling a contract with CSC would cost more than continuing with it and fixing the problems and over the summer the Department set about a review which led to the whole programme being cancelled.

But what is the real story at the front line, in the hospitals themselves? As with many stories, the tale from Whitehall is very different from reality. At July’s CIO Transformation Summit University Central London Hospital (UCLH) CIO James Thomas made an inspiring presentation on the advances in technology implementation and networking improvements that he and his team have put into the trust. John Cornall and his team at the George Eliot Hospital in the Midlands have also improved patient care through technology innovation.

UCLH CIO James Thomas on negotiating regulatory scrutiny

Streams for success

George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, named after the famous English novelist who hailed from the Midlands town, is a district hospital for Nuneaton and the adjacent communities of Bedworth, Coventry and parts of Leicestershire. The hospital has 400 beds and provides all the services you’d expect to find in a district hospital including accident and emergency, maternity and cancer treatments.

The IT team, managed by IT director Cornall, has four development streams. Top of the list is a clinical IT development strand for the hospital workforce, a National Programme for IT and Local Health Economy stream, a quality/efficiency stream and a core infrastructure stream. The last of these lays the foundation for the other three in many respects and represents an area where this hospital, like UCLH, is making investments and modernising the way it delivers patient care.

“There is massive change in the NHS. There is a significant reconfiguration of services with fewer hospitals and there’s a lot of change in demand for our services. I cannot see that changing in the next two to three years,” says Cornall. “It is exciting. It’s a tunnel with light at the end, but the light keeps moving away. As an NHS IT team we have to be supporting the patients and clinicians with maximum safety.”

Cornall has just completed the integration of a wide area network (WAN) using Cisco technology and integrator Cisilion.
“It is a big investment decision and the business case payback is very difficult because the WAN is not the payback, but what it enables is the pay back through the utilisation of VitalPAC handheld device,” he says.

Cornall aims to improve the standard of care at the Midlands hospital by the introduction VitalPAC a handheld device for nursing staff to enter patient observation information, which can then trigger alerts to the nursing staff if there are medical conditions they should be made aware of. Cornall says this will lead to faster transfer of patients to specialist wards should it be required.

“That is far quicker than the paper-based system currently used and saves all manner of time and delivers better patient safety,” he adds.

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