Hazel Jones, head of health at Made Tech, reveals why NHS trusts need to work together to fund the development of new solutions that will drive improvements in care
The digital transformation of healthcare is producing a vast range of new solutions to benefit patients and clinicians, as well as to improve services.
And this has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, where trusts and CCGs across the UK have rapidly embraced digital solutions to keep services, staff, and patients safe and ensure services could continue.
However, despite embracing new technologies, in many cases NHS bodies are still facing challenges when trying to implement the solutions they want, or need.
One of these is the centralisation of decision making.
Targets to drive digital transformation and funding for these are set at a national level, while solutions are also vetted through national frameworks before they can be commissioned regionally.
This means that trusts and CCGs are often restricted in what solutions they can bring in and implement.
While this central delegation of targets and funding ensures that NHS services are aiming towards a unified goal; different regions often face different health challenges, and this approach limits the agility of local health bodies to flex the solutions based on local need.
With these limitations in place, NHS trusts and CCGs need to find new and innovative ways to access the tools and platforms they need to help tackle health issues in their regions in an effective and affordable way.
NHS trusts and CCGs need to find new and innovative ways to access the tools and platforms they need to help tackle health issues in their regions in an effective and affordable way
One solution that can produce meaningful results is co-funding collaboratives - a practice whereby two or more trusts that are facing similar issues in their regions come together to fund the implementation of new technologies to tackle these via a single delivery team.
This means they can pool both human and financial resources, achieving better value for money.
There are multiple benefits for trusts if they come together and form co-funding collaboratives.
Firstly, working together to co-design new digital solutions that could benefit multiple hospitals and trusts can greatly reduce the costs of implementing these platforms at an individual hospital or trust level.
The funding can be split between each of the bodies, rather than taking it on individually.
And the national targets, ambitions and clinical themes are shared, so why not the co-design and implementation?
At the same time, this collaborative approach can help reduce the pressure on trusts and CCGs when it comes to co-design and delivery.
With multiple parties working together to put new technologies in place, work can be split between each of the bodies involved, with each taking on different parts of the project. This will mean less pressure is put on one organisation and set of staff, ensuring that the installation process is done effectively and reducing the risk of mistakes being made.
Finally, these collaboratives can choose to open source their innovation so that other trusts and hospitals that weren’t involved in the collaborative efforts are able to adopt the innovation without needing to start from scratch.
If individual trusts and CCGs want to make sure they are putting solutions in place that benefit them and their patients, working with like-minded bodies to set up co-funding collaboratives could provide them with the perfect avenue to do so
With the benefits of co-funding collaborations laid out, the question becomes what can be done to help drive these initiatives?
This is where digital partners have a key role to play.
Rather than saying ‘this solution is out of your price range’, technology providers need to be working with trusts and CCGs to explain the alternative ways they can implement new solutions they are unable to do so alone.
The legacy of the pandemic must be continued with the continued digital transformation of the NHS.
But, let’s be honest, budgets will continue to be stretched, while public scrutiny has never been higher.
If individual trusts and CCGs want to make sure they are putting solutions in place that benefit them and their patients, working with like-minded bodies to set up co-funding collaboratives could provide them with the perfect avenue to do so.
At the same time, providers need to work with health organisations to provide them with the knowledge and insight to be able to collaborate, helping create a more-digital, thriving NHS now, and going forward.