Selling to the NHS ‘most challenging and frustrating’ experience, says NHS CIO

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Ahead of  UK e-Health Week 2017, leaders from the heath IT community gathered to discuss some of the key issues surrounding NHS and supplier partnerships

[London, UK] UK Health IT leaders gathered yesterday at the King’s Fund to discuss ways they can work better across the ecosystem to support the interaction between suppliers and the NHS.

The roundtable, the first in a series of events preceding UK e-Health Week 2017, addressed some of the main challenges stopping the NHS from moving forward the digital agenda and understanding that the collaboration between the health service and suppliers is crucial in that respect.

NHS is one of the most ‘difficult environments’

Andy Kinnear, Director of Digital Transformation at NHS South, Central and West CSU, agreed that ‘to sell to the NHS must be one of the most frustrating and challenging experiences on the planet’, acknowledging some of the barriers suppliers face when trying to implement their technology into the NHS.

Kinnear, also the Chair of BCS Health, said that the current version of the NHS is one of the most ‘difficult environments’ that he has ever worked in, one that makes it harder to get traction; furthermore, he expressed his own frustration with his CIO colleagues as they don’t seem to be investing ‘in their own development’ to deliver the requirements necessary to transform the current health and care service.

He accepted that there are some CIOs that are ‘energised, visible, successful’, but there are also some that are ‘never emerging, never believing that understanding what goes on in the wider world’ could influence their job in any way.

“The reason why I took on the BCS gig is that it was an opportunity to drive through some of that agenda,” added Kinnear.

NHS to be ‘more visionary’

The consensus between leaders was that the NHS has to engage on the levels that suppliers are expecting, being ‘more visionary’ in their need. Steve Lieber, CEO of HIMSS, argued that the organisation has always been focused on including everyone in the discussion, not only ‘clinicians or government’, in order to ‘make sure everybody is having this conversation’.

He agreed this starts with professionals as they have a significant challenge ahead of them as Jane Berezynskyj, ICT Director at Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, emphasised the need for ‘another level of partnership’ within trusts between the clinical workforce and the technical workforce.

System ‘doesn’t support’ suppliers

“My single biggest frustration with the current system is that it doesn’t support the supplier,” agreed Joanna Smith, CIO of Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

The issue of ‘procurement specialism’ was brought on as Berezynskyj commented that the NHS is ‘good at buying a thousand laptops’, but when it comes to complex solutions ‘the process is different’.

When it comes to the supplier community, there was an agreement that they have to work with the NHS to support the development of an environment that would accelerate the uptake of digital technologies, as Dr Saif Abed, Founding Partner of AbedGraham, highlighted that the vendor community ‘has to mature’ while supporting clinicians in their work.

Lieber concluded that there needs to be some alignment between the health IT community, specifically the NHS and suppliers, but that will not happen until everybody understands the ‘policy of reimbursement’, supporting the addition of ‘operational incentives’ to achieve maximum efficiency.


Date: December 9, 2016