Discover how we helped Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust overcome a technology communication challenge which arose when staff were required to work from home due to COVID-19.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust provides local general hospital and community services to around 260,000 people in Walsall and the surrounding areas. This comprises Walsall Manor Hospital, a 60-site community health service including health centres and GP surgeries, and a palliative care centre. The services are delivered by 4,400 staff, and responsibility for IT falls to Craig Cox, End User Computer Service Delivery Manager and Ibrar Hashmi, Digital Technology Project Manager.
Once COVID-19 arrived, the trust asked as many staff as possible to work from home. This started in phases, with the most vulnerable being sent home first, followed by other staff on a rota basis. However, strict security measures meant that staff were not able to use any of their own devices to carry out NHS work. Walsall Healthcare realised it needed to increase and enhance its audio visual (AV) capability to help staff communicate safely and effectively.
Craig said: “Security and patient privacy is paramount and we could not risk any breaches. In addition, personal computers would not have the relevant software or necessary virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) licensing and so we urgently needed to procure software, laptops, coding stations and more.”
To help source its urgent requirements, the trust turned to our Technology Products and Associated Services (TePAS) framework. The framework offers competitive prices on products and services from a wide range of specialist suppliers.
The trust ran a further competition under lot 1, Hardware, Software and Associated Services, to find a supplier who could provide the end-to-end solution required to enable the hospital’s clinical and management teams to conduct remote meetings across disparate locations while the pandemic was ongoing.
Supplier Stone Group was awarded the contract and immediately got to work liaising with the ICT Team and project managers to design a cost-effective and professional AV solution.
The supplier worked closely with the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust team to update its IT estate to a level that is fit for today’s needs and requirements.
Ibrar said: “We believed we were working with the ideal solution for our organisation. However, once Stone started to get into the detail of what exactly it was we wanted from our AV project and took the time to understand our specific needs, it recommended something else entirely. It advised using Microsoft Teams Room solution instead of the older set up, which essentially does exactly the same thing but at a quarter of the cost.”
Stone sent the laptops to a central location at the trust where, after setting them up with the relevant emails and log in details, trust staff were called in to sign for and collect their individual kit.
Stone also recommended Iiyama screens, Yealink (UC) unified communications collaboration bar (VC-210), and Microsoft Teams, which completed the AV package to provide a simple to use yet incredibly effective solution for virtual collaboration.
Prior to having the AV solution, personnel were having to cram into a room that made it impossible to follow social distancing guidelines as this was the only way that staff could access important meetings. To address this, large format displays and high-quality speakers are being installed across a number of meeting rooms which enable staff to space out and practice social distancing when physical meetings resume. Now, they can meet safely and connect to any of their colleagues in their own trust, in the UK, or even internationally.
“The recommended AV solution is totally seamless and works brilliantly.”, said Ibrar.
Craig commented: “We were well aware of the constraints Stone were facing when it came to the supply network. However, with its support, we managed to procure 500 laptops and get 80% of our staff working from home in just over 2 and a half weeks – an amazing achievement.
“If there is a silver lining to this crisis it is that the NHS virtual clinic is here to stay. Having seen the benefits and cost savings which are critical in healthcare, the trust won’t be going back to the way things were. Patients themselves have found the process easy to use and can speak to their medical team from a smartphone or PC.
He added: “Communication has improved threefold thanks to the solution. It has made an enormous difference to the way we can all talk to each other. Having staff working safely from home helped reduce footfall on premise, minimise the impact of the virus and genuinely saved lives.”
By using Stone kit, virtual clinics offer numerous advantages to both medical staff and patients:
- medical staff don’t have to waste time travelling from one trust site to another to meet patients, so can see more patients
- staff now have much more flexibility to work from any trust location
- clinic times are not constrained by having to wait for the relevant rooms to become available on the trust estate
- staff are able to enjoy a better work life balance and this is particularly important for those with children
- patients don’t have to travel to clinics which could be miles from where they live
- patients don’t have to wait around for hours to see a doctor or nurse
The solution has been so successful that the trust’s initial order for 10 led to a further 20 being rolled out, and they are now looking to buy more.
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