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Infrastructure Transformation across the NHS

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Combining LDRs, STPs and the NHS Five Year Forward View

As the NHS continues its program of digital transformation, technology strategies also have to change and mould in order to adhere to the requirements set out by the Local Digital Roadmaps, in addition to the Sustainability and Transformation Plans; not forgetting keeping one eye on an organisations’ own Information Management and Technology plans to ensure that all changes fulfil the needs of internal staff and patients. It’s easy to see why technology is at the same time a huge enabler for delivering digital transformation, but also a huge source of confusion and complexity for those responsible for delivering change.

Satisfying multiple stakeholders

There are a number of pressures on the shoulders of Public Sector IT Directors – from trying to balance in-house requirements with Local Digital Roadmaps and Sustainability and Transformation Plans. It’s a balance between meeting the needs of local, in-house objectives and the wider NHS ecosystem.

IT has historically been delivered in a siloed manner across many Public Sector organisations, from departmental shadow IT through to application-specific infrastructure stacks that aren’t integrated into the wider IT environment. With the advent of software-as-a-service applications and cloud services, the ease of procuring new technology solutions now means that IT in many Public Sector organisations is more complex than ever before.

This web of different applications, systems, software, hardware and everything else in between now needs to be reviewed and neatly arranged so that it can support the initiatives laid out in the Government’s Five Year Forward strategy. And, at the same time as delivering this transformation, IT management still has to keep ongoing operations functioning and ensure that issues are kept under control.

On top of this, a budget constrained NHS has to now find the appropriate funds to support this technology transformation; by looking at where savings can be made to existing IT services to allow for the reinvestment required.

‘Joined-up health and social care economy’

The Government’s focus on moving towards a system of interoperability and a ‘joined-up health and social care economy’ relies on having the appropriate infrastructure in place to facilitate the sharing of data between applications, systems and locations. The new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) gives organisations the ability to easily connect with colleagues across different areas or departments, or even between different organisations. However, it requires the right technology underpinning all of this to make data sharing as safe, secure and simple as possible.

Without a review of all current IT infrastructure in place, we can’t begin to deliver a joined up approach to patients – if applications can’t speak to each other or systems can’t be integrated. In order to improve patient engagement, and better respond to all of the different touchpoints a patient engages with throughout their entire ‘health journey’, technology across the NHS and peripheral organisations needs to be transformed to support a data-sharing environment that adheres to common standards.

How can technology help?

So how can technology deliver this ‘joined-up’ approach?

NHS Digital is already promoting the use of open source software within the NHS – and even has an Open Source Programme where source code is made freely available in the hope that organisations and individuals will use this data to build better and more effective solutions to NHS challenges. This is a new way of thinking and a move against the historic proprietary nature of the NHS where IT departments have often been locked into bespoke technology stacks, sometimes due to sector-specific applications deeming certain technology suites necessary without considering the potential for integration with other systems.

Any solutions being implemented by NHS organisations now need to be future-proof in their design; enabling IT teams to flex and change the services they deliver (and consequently the systems underneath those services) to adapt to future requirements and directives. Having to change an entire IT environment due to a policy amendment in 3 years’ time makes no sense for a cost-cutting NHS – today’s technology needs the flexibility and agility to incorporate new software and systems – it must be based on open standards and utilise industry-standard components for simpler collaboration.

NHS Digital is also continuing its focus on encouraging a cloud-first policy, driving suppliers to offer more health-specific cloud services to buyers through the G-Cloud procurement framework.

This commitment to industry standard services, systems, software and hardware means that integrating with other organisations will be easier; enabling enhanced collaboration between different bodies.

Here at Redcentric, we expect organisations to focus their digital transformation programmes on building hybrid IT systems – with some legacy or critical systems remaining on-premise, and other workloads being delivered in Private Cloud environments or via Public Cloud providers. Many of the Public Cloud players such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are now developing health-specific offerings to demonstrate their commitment to delivering services that are mission critical and high availability enough for public sector organisations. This is a big confidence boost for NHS bodies who need further reassurance about moving to the Public Cloud for some of their services but aren’t sure about the availability and security levels of cloud services.

We are also seeing suppliers leading the charge towards a cloud-first NHS, with many of the main NHS software vendors now pushing cloud-based versions of their offerings over their traditional licenced software due to the ease of management and support delivery. This makes it easier for Public Sector IT teams to procure, manage and maintain cloud services if all of the main suppliers have already developed cloud-ready and industry aware offerings that are proven and credible, whilst being easily integrated with other systems through open API policies.

Recommendations

In recent conversations I have had with IT Directors, I received a wide spectrum of responses when it came to considering cloud services for their own organisations. Many still feel burnt by the high costs and problems surrounding the Government’s National Programme for IT where cloud came out as the black sheep of the programme – failing to deliver on promises, with wasted budgets and issues around retrieving sensitive data once contracts came to an end.

Even so, there are many who recognise that cloud will form a large part of their strategy moving forward and see the benefits it could bring to their own IT environments in the future.

When we start discussions with a client about moving to cloud services, or migrating from other cloud providers, we start by thinking about the workloads and applications that would be most suitable for cloud service delivery.

Then we ask a few questions about those workloads:

  • Will patient data be handled by these applications?
  • How sensitive is the data?
  • What are the bandwidth requirements for this system?
  • What level of support is required?
  • What level of system availability is needed?

This helps you to define which type of cloud service would be most appropriate for each workload, and, in turn, helps you to build out a hybrid technology strategy. This could be a mix of on-premise services, combined with a Private Cloud environment hosted in the UK, with some services delivered through Public Cloud contracts.

At Redcentric, we work closely with HPE to deliver our Private Cloud hosting solution to Public Sector organisations, hosted in England to satisfy government data regulations and using enterprise technology infrastructure across HPE’s server, storage and networking solutions. Because of HPE’s investment in supporting hybrid cloud strategies, and commitment to open standards, it makes it much easier to combine our in-house hosting solutions with third party cloud services, all integrated with your existing on-premise IT investment.

We often work with clients who want to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy, but aren’t sure how to manage all of the different elements themselves. Our expertise lies across the full ‘cloud stack’, from your on-premise infrastructure, through to our own cloud and hosting services, and even across integrating Public Cloud solutions from suppliers such as Amazon and Microsoft to bring a holistically managed and integrated cloud service delivery model to our customers. We also provide N3 connectivity to public cloud suppliers to enable a fully compliant service.

Find out more about how we work with clients in the Public Sector and see how our specialist health sector teams can help you to build a hybrid IT strategy.

 

Redcentric and HPE
Redcentric is a leading managed services provider delivering innovative technology to organisations to improve productivity and efficiency. Using HPE datacentre technology to power our managed cloud services, we deliver enterprise cloud and managed service solutions to the Public Sector.

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