By Kevin Timms
Right before our very eyes we are seeing how Covid-19 is stress-testing some of the best healthcare systems across the globe. It still isn’t clear what the future holds, but it has been inspiring to watch how both businesses and individuals have been uncompromising in their commitment to supporting the healthcare sector tackle the crisis.
However, with so much pressure being placed on our own NHS, this has raised the important question of if and how we can leverage technology and a different way of thinking to support the sector now and in the future.
On August 12th 2020, a major step was taken to achieving this. We and 27 other technology providers were selected as a supplier in the NHS SBS (Shared Business Services) Digital Workplace Solutions Framework. With an estimated value of around £500m, the framework is set to revolutionize the way that public bodies, such as NHS trusts, can gain access to the latest innovative technologies, improving healthcare for the better.
How does the framework work?
NHS Shared Business Services manages an extensive portfolio of framework agreements, providing public sector organisations with an easy to access and compliant route to the goods and services they need, whilst driving savings and improving efficiency. Its newly launched NHS Digital Workplace Solutions Framework offers consumer-orientated technologies across a complete range of software and IT infrastructure areas from 28 well-established private sector suppliers, who have been carefully selected to best meet the framework users’ needs.
Due to run until August 2022 (with an optional two-year extension through to 2024), the Framework will deliver savings of at least 15% compared with buying directly from a supplier at list price, while it also represents at least a £75m cost saving for the public sector.
Central to the Framework is that it enables suppliers of IT solutions, which include network connectivity, servers, storage, software and hardware, to connect with the whole of the UK public sector and their associated bodies more efficiently and effectively. These public sector bodies include over 220 NHS Trusts, over 1,250 hospitals as well as several local authorities, universities, the justice system and others. By gaining access to a pre-approved pool of trusted suppliers, those in the public sector can now award contracts directly to those selected suppliers, safe in the knowledge that they have been fully vetted and approved, potentially saving them considerable time and expenditure from their already stretched procurement budgets.
Improving patient outcomes
By forming an integral part of the government’s NHS Long Term Plan, the Framework is a key pillar of the ongoing move to deliver modernisation of the healthcare sector, as well as improvements in the quality of patient care and health outcomes.
How does it do this? At the very base level, the Framework will enable the NHS and other public bodies to cut through some of the red tape that has previously restricted its access to the newest and most innovative technologies. The simplified process makes it easier for suppliers to provide these services, which in turn gives the public sector organisations far greater choice, value for money and access to previously untapped technologies.
The knock-on effect is that it ensures that money is targeted to front line services that make a real difference, rather than simply on impacting internal evaluation processes, which has been assessed and thought to cost a minimum of £25,000 per tender, by Shared Business Services.
Supporting further digital transformation
Outside of making a difference for those on the frontline, the Framework also lays the foundation for bolstering the continued digital transformation happening in the healthcare sector right now.
COVID-19 has changed the relationship that health and social care has with technology forever. There seems to be a change in mindset where people are open to approaching things differently. For example, the large majority of GP practices in England are running video consultations with their patients at a significantly higher frequency than before the COVID outbreak. This is only one instance of a swathe of innovation, which also includes care platforms being set up to support patients physical and mental health and patient portals being created to get results and facilitate home-based testing.
Why is this important? For me, the Digital Workplace Solutions Framework has arrived at the perfect moment and allows the sector to continue to capitalise on this new appetite for collaboration and innovation. In turn, it can help the NHS and other public sector bodies harness technology to meet its most pressing strategic challenges, including improving patient outcomes and increasing productivity, all while budgets are under scrutiny.
For example, as remote working has become commonplace due to Covid-19, the launch of the Digital Workplace Solutions Framework means frontline public sector organisations can access technologies like VPN remote access and virtual desktops more easily than ever. This means that, whether you are an NHS trust trying to connect with patients remotely during the Covid-19 crisis, or a local council wanting to give more flexibility to their workforce, this Framework provides them with the tools to do so.
A bright future ahead
The healthcare sector is under more pressure now than it has ever been. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for both the healthcare sector and the patients they serve.
The NHS SBS Digital Workplace Solutions Framework offers these bodies an efficient and effective way to access the newest and most innovative technologies. In turn, this can not only money is being targeted to front line services and patient outcomes are made the priority, but also bolster the growing innovation currently happening in the sector right now.
Kevin Timms is Chairman & CEO of eacs.