Following several years of technological transformation and innovation, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) has been formally recognised by NHS England as an Accredited Global Digital Exemplar – an internationally recognised NHS provider delivering exceptional care, efficiently, through the use of world-class digital technology and information.
In 2017 the Trust, which is one of the largest providers of mental health and disability services in the North of England, was selected as of seven digitally advanced UK mental health trusts to be supported by NHS England to become a Global Digital Exemplar (GDE).
The Trust received £5m over three years to deliver the programme and spread the adoption of digital innovations. Digital tools developed by the Trust, including technology enabling mobile access to patient records, were made available across the country as part of a national range of ‘blueprints’. These digital toolkits allowed other NHS Trusts to implement improvements quicker and more easily in order to improve services for patients and staff.
And following the successful delivery of the programme, the Trust has now been formally recognised as an Accredited Global Digital Exemplar.
Darren McKenna, Director of Digital Services at CNTW said: “Our Trust’s advanced use of digital technology has transformed the working environment for our staff, and enabled us to provide the best possible standard of care to all our service users.
“The successful delivery of this programme and CNTW becoming an Accredited Global Digital Exemplar is a testament to the hard work and expertise of our whole Digital Services team, and the support we have received from the rest of the organisation.
“It’s particularly remarkable that the team managed to keep on delivering these improvements throughout both the transfer of Cumbrian services to the Trust in October 2019, and the unexpected crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, we didn’t deliver this programme in a vacuum, and one of the greatest strengths of the Mental Health Global Digital Exemplar programme nationally has been the collaboration between organisations, sharing and learning together with other NHS Trusts.
“We were able to use digital solutions to help keep staff and service users safe whilst ensuring continuity of care during the pandemic. This level of technology would not have been in place without the Global Digital Exemplar programme.”
Some of the Trust’s key achievements during the Global Digital Exemplar programme have been:
- Pioneering a ‘work from anywhere’ approach by providing staff with laptops, ‘cloud’ services and other IT equipment – and enabling a smooth transition to safe remote working at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Extensive work has taken place to improve and integrate various electronic records, systems, and devices across the Trust. Changes have enabled information to be recorded and viewed more accurately and easily, saved clinical time, improved access to diagnostic information, and improved safety.
- For example, a project to replace handwritten boards in wards with ‘at-a-glance’ digital displays showing the real-time status of patients taken directly from the Electronic Patient Record. This has been welcomed by staff, improving accuracy of information and, in turn, the safety and efficacy of treatment provided to patients.
- Old paper medication records have been replaced with an Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration system, removing the problems caused by a paper system (such as difficult-to-read handwriting leading to errors) and making it easier to check medication information for a particular patient.
- Before lockdowns during the pandemic, the Trust had already piloted an online consultation system, meaning the organisation was able to quickly scale up this remote solution to 142 teams and over 3,000 staff in a matter of weeks. Since then, staff have been able to deliver tens of thousands of treatment sessions online, allowing care and treatment to continue throughout the pandemic, and received very positive service user feedback.
- CNTW has worked collaboratively with other organisations in the region on the Great North Care Record, a system which allows authorised health and care staff to securely view all the key information about a patient’s health and care held by different organisations – such as diagnoses, medication, details of hospital admissions and treatments – at the click of a button. This allows professionals to see a more complete picture of somebody’s health, and enables better continuity of care as people move between different healthcare providers.
Of course, as more services are delivered using digital technologies, good security is vital to protect confidentiality and safety. Alongside innovative solutions, the Trust has developed enhanced training for staff to support the safe and secure use of new digital technologies, invested in advanced auditing systems to identify potential misuse, and made investments in cyber security.