East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Transforming the way that staff and patients interact and collaborate using Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Surface devices to deliver on East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trusts #TimeMatters philosophy.

As the NHS is facing a number of challenges such as the need to provide better patient care with sometimes limited budgets or to provide a great experience for the staff that are working within the NHS, many trusts are looking at technology as a way to automate, streamline or enhance the ways in which they are working. Looking at the wider healthcare sector, Craig Taylor, Cloud Solutions Director at Phoenix, commented:

“Whether looking at ageing infrastructure, lack of investment in technology, budget cuts, doing more with less or how to stay up to date with the latest technological trends, the NHS is always looking for ways to improve for its staff and patients.

They have to balance that against providing a great patient and staff experience as well, but with some of the solutions that are available now we’re able to provide virtual assistants, bots and technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to support the NHS and perform remote consultations with Microsoft Teams.”

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is a relatively new organisation that only merged just over two years ago. They have a philosophy of #TimeMatters and this applies to everything they do and hope to achieve. Time that matters for their patients, their staff and their families – how can they give time back to these people? As part of the merger they realised that IT transformation would be absolutely pivotal to everything they did and enable #TimeMatters to become even more of a reality.

As part of the project and merger, ESNEFT had two legacy sites, two legacy infrastructures and they needed to bring all of those back together. That’s when they engaged with Phoenix.

Mike Meers, Director of IT at ESNEFT looked back at the position they were in pre-merger and why they needed to do this project, “If you look at our historical organisation’s pre-merger, IT was one of the biggest frustrations – the time it takes for a PC to boot up, the fact that we are a multi-site organisation and they couldn’t access the systems. So, IT really looked at ways under the #TimeMatters agenda that every project we implemented dovetailed back to the trust philosophy.

Going forward our new IT strategy very much centres around an internet-first and a cloud-based strategy. Obviously, being two former legacy organisations, we’ve got our own data centres on both sites, but whenever we tender for any solution now, we insist on looking at a cloud-based strategy. We’ve already moved one of our major clinical systems into Azure. You get the level of resilience and business continuity that we couldn’t do with our own data centre environments.”

Time really does matter - patients time matters and staff time matters. In IT we try to look at individual things and group processes and assess just how we can make things ultimately quicker, but more efficient and to give people back time.
James Ling, IT Customer Services Manager at ESNEFT

One of the biggest challenges that Phoenix helped ESNEFT overcome was understanding the technical complexities of bringing those two environments together. We worked in partnership with the ESNEFT IT staff to find that strategy and help them formulate a plan as to how they were going to bring those environments together in Azure and migrate users to Office 365. Building on that they would be able to put a solid roadmap in place that would enable them to use technologies like Microsoft Teams and Surface devices to provide better patient care and experience to staff.

Bringing the two environments together into Microsoft Azure has been a real success and we’re seeing that Azure can solve a lot of the NHS’s challenges. At Phoenix we’ve seen NHS trusts working with us to understand how they can migrate workloads to Azure. We can help them to assess, design and migrate and that’s tackling two recurring problems in healthcare. One would be around end of support, modernising the infrastructure and providing a scalable infrastructure. The other part is how they can then take advantage of advanced workloads like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to change the way that healthcare can be provided to patients. These kinds of enhancements wouldn’t be possible without moving to Azure.

Being instrumental in the move to Azure, Ian Ling, Head of IT at ESNEFT, commented, “Everybody wants to work on Azure. Everybody wants to work on the new platforms because it’s fast, it’s exciting and it’s a pace of change in IT that we haven’t seen in our careers before. One of the things that my team is concentrating on at the moment is Windows Virtual Desktop, which is an Azure-based product. To my knowledge, we’re the first Trust to work on this and the idea is that we can retire our remote working solutions and eventually migrate to a platform that allows our staff to work remotely as if they were in the Trust.”

Windows Virtual Desktop really allows ESNEFT to provide a rapid, very cost-effective and easy way to securely deploy a desktop to any user, on any device, wherever they are, when there may be an urgent requirement to do that. This has obviously proved extremely beneficial to the trust at this moment in time with COVID-19.

Having increased availability, scalability and resilience with Azure and Windows Virtual Desktop, ESNEFT looked at how they could unlock further enhancements and time savings for their staff and patients by utilising apps with Microsoft 365 such as Teams and also utilising  a range of Surface devices to collaborate, communicate and engage with patients.

I'm confident that the work we've done in Office 365 has had impact on patients. For me, Teams has been a game changer, in the way that it allows the staff to communicate with each other and collaborate from their mobile devices and from their laptops in group chats.
Ian Ling, Head of IT, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Not only is the combination of Teams and Surface devices helping the Trust daily with staff and patient engagements, but also productivity, cost and time savings by hosting virtual meetings across sites and the region. If you look at the distance between Ipswich and Colchester it’s 20 miles, that’s a half an hour journey on a good day between sites. With the Surface Hubs and Teams, it enables people to have instant meetings. This is just one meeting but think of how many other meetings are now happening like this and the savings that they are seeing as a result. How many more patients can be seen because of this time saving?

“To have the tools to collaborate, to stop driving across site to attend meetings has embraced our #TimeMatters philosophy and given back time to the clinicians to spend more time on patient care.”
Ian Ling, Head of IT, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Having launched Microsoft Teams, they are now using it for one-to-one and group chats, as well as project management, steering voices and a whole host of other activities. They see the use of Teams and Surface devices as another way to provide their staff with the very best tools they can in order to provide the best patient care and for them to want to come to work at the Trust.

In conclusion, Ian Ling said, “It’s refreshing to deal with a partner who is not solely focused on making money but is actually more focused on enabling the trust to do what we need to do. They know we have a #TimeMatters philosophy and they work with us to embrace it.”

Another exciting project that they are now working on is taking the work that they’ve done with Microsoft Teams and replicating it across the wider system and community. They want to see their entire organisation using the tool sets to collaborate and also engage with their Commissioning Partners – the County Council and other Care Partners that are also invested in the same product sets.

Summing up how he felt about the project with ESNEFT, Craig Taylor, Cloud Solutions Director at Phoenix said, “What I love about working with ESNEFT, is their #TimeMatters initiative. I think it dovetails really nicely into what Phoenix do from a Modern Workplace point of view and seeing how they’ve been able to embrace Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Surface devices, as well as the rest of Office 365, to deliver on #TimeMatters is truly remarkable.”