Public Services

BT health trusts survey shows procurement lagging NHS digital ambitions

David Bicknell Published 16 February 2018

68% of NHS trusts want to integrate IT systems with local health and care systems as they migrate to HSCN, but only 38% have a procurement plan to manage the transition


Although most NHS trusts have strong digital ambitions, the procurement process within the majority of trusts is lagging behind those ambitions, according to a new survey into health sector IT by BT.

The survey shows that 68% of NHS trusts have plans to integrate their IT systems with other local health and care systems within one to two years as they prepare to migrate to the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN). But only 38% of organisations surveyed have a procurement plan in place to manage the transition.

The survey of senior executives and IT leaders across 50 NHS organisations offers an insight, BT says, into the state of connectivity across the NHS, including the level of preparedness for migrating to HSCN. HSCN went live last year and is replacing the BT-run N3 as the nationwide 'backbone' network for the NHS.

HSCN will provide a new network connecting health and social care organisations for the first time, allowing providers in both sectors to access and share information more reliably, flexibly and efficiently. The suppliers for HSCN will be procured locally by health and care organisations, reflecting a shift away from the centrally funded and managed IT infrastructure contracts of the past.

The survey reveals relatively low levels of preparedness for migrating across to HSCN, with less than a fifth (19%) of NHS trusts at more advanced 'adoption', 'implementation' and 'roll-out' stages of the transition.

Most organisations (46%) are at the beginning of the journey, the 'scoping' stage. The survey says this is only to be expected perhaps given that accredited suppliers are still in the process of entering the market, while the transition process itself is expected to take up to 12 months.

The preferred procurement route for around a third of the respondents (33%) is to collaborate with other health and social care organisations. Just 6% are planning to run their own procurement process, while 19% intend to join a centrally managed procurement plan.

There is also a high level of confidence amongst NHS leaders regarding the benefits of HSCN, with 73% citing greater collaboration between health and social care providers amongst the top three benefits to their organisation.

The response to the survey also suggests that NHS organisations are increasingly looking towards mobile solutions to underpin their digital transformation and provide faster, more flexible and responsive services to patients.

64% of organisations surveyed have a mobile strategy which enables healthcare professionals to access applications and information wherever they need to work. Meanwhile, 84% believe levels of mobile adoption will increase over the next 24 months. Security and costs remain major concerns, with 88% citing both factors as a high-mid level concern when considering their mobile strategy.

The move towards cloud-based services is underway across the NHS, with 40% of organisations surveyed implementing either private, public or hybrid cloud solutions.

Jason Hall, director of Health at BT, said, "This survey reveals that, with many trusts preparing to make the leap to HSCN, the NHS is at a pivotal point with regards to its digital transformation.

"HSCN opens up the possibility for NHS trusts to deliver new products and services to make a step change in digital transformation, while its introduction will result in a seamless infrastructure for health and social care. Accessing cloud services via the internet will become much more straightforward, while extending the network reach by using 4G and Wi-Fi will give NHS staff access to the information, tools and applications they need to provide high quality care.

"With 17 accredited suppliers now active in the marketplace, including BT, NHS Trusts can now develop their procurement plans with confidence - safe in the knowledge that the network and IT industry stands ready to help them achieve their digital ambitions."


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