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New BT survey reveals procurement lagging behind NHS digital transformation plans
Procurement process within the majority of NHS trusts is lagging behind their digital ambitions – according to a new survey by BT

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Sixty – eight per cent 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), yet just 38 per cent 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 provides an insight into the state of connectivity across the NHS, including the level of preparedness for migrating to HSCN, which went live last year and is replacing 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. HSCN suppliers will be procured locally by health and care organisations, reflecting the 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 one fifth (19 per cent) of NHS trusts at the more advanced ‘adoption’, ‘implementation’ and ‘roll-out’ stages of the transition. Most organisations (46 per cent) are at the beginning of the journey – the ‘scoping’ stage. This is only to be expected perhaps given 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 one third of the respondents (33 per cent) is to collaborate with other health and social care organisations. Just 6 per cent are planning to run their own procurement process, while 19 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent of organisations surveyed have a mobile strategy which enables healthcare professionals to access applications and information wherever they need to work. Meanwhile, 84 per cent believe levels of mobile adoption will increase over the next 24 months. However, concerns about security issues and costs loom large, with 88 per cent citing both factors as a high-mid level concern when considering their mobile strategy.

The move towards cloud-based services is also underway across the NHS, with 40 per cent 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.”

BT is an accredited Consumer Network Services Provider (CNSP) for the HSCN and offers a range of simple-to-procure network solutions which ensure that health and social care professionals can access the right information at the right time, no matter where they are working. From ultrafast fibre and Ethernet connectivity, 4G mobility and Wi-Fi to cloud and managed security solutions, BT provides a range of options to enable health and social care organisations of all types and sizes to make a smooth transition to HSCN.