Stephen Dobson, GMHSC
show image

Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

“You can’t just start throwing stuff into the cloud,” says GMHSC CDO Stephen Dobson

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care (GMHSC) Partnership is made up of NHS organisations and councils in the region, and after signing a devolution deal with the government, has taken charge of the £6bn spent on health and social care within 10 boroughs, as well as managing a £450m transformation fund.

As digital plays a huge part of the organisation’s transformation and bid to evolve public services, GMHSC hired a chief digital officer, Stephen Dobson, previously chief information officer (CIO) at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust. Dobson has a team of five working for him in what is known as a digital collaborative team, with a remit of creating a digital collaborative network; this consists of encouraging CIOs of the entire system of Greater Manchester, from mental health, primary care, acute and local authorities to collaborate more.

Once a month, GMHSC brings together CIOs in a clinical practitioner reference group, CIOs in an informatic engagement group and chief technology officers, network engineers and infrastructure engineers in a separate group to discuss implementation, keep everyone up to date with where they are, and develop the region’s future strategy.

The organisation’s strategy encompasses five key areas: connect, integrate, collaborate, empower and understand.

“Connect is about giving clinicians the applications they need on the device that is most suitable wherever they need it. Integration is the ability to give them the information in the best format. Collaborate is about sharing people, processes, procedures as well as video, voice and text so you have seamless communication with multidisciplinary teams – including those in remote locations,” Dobson explains.

“Empower is about empowering patients to access their own records and contributing to that record. It’s also about empowering the professionals, so they can see the data they need so that they can contribute to reorganising the service and identifying improvements and being responsive to those improvements,” he adds.

Understand is about drawing assumptions from information that can then be used to change those services – an area that Dobson says the NHS has not been great at thus far.

Currently, the GMHSC is working on the ‘connect’ and ‘integrate’ areas.

“Those are the two biggest problems we have in Manchester at the moment – we need people to have access to the apps and systems they need, and ensure that the systems are robust and secure, and that everyone has the information they need,” he says.

GMHSC’s strategy has led to two major programmes of work; the first was being selected as a Local Health and Care Record Exemplar (LHCRE) to establish an integrated health and care record across a large population, with the help of a £7.5m investment from NHS England. The aim is to enable a GP to share important patient information with qualified professionals working within any Greater Manchester hospital, mental health service, social care service or in the community. Graphnet is among the vendors that GMHSC is working with for this initiative.

“Their integrated care record allows you to see patient data across locality – not all data but selected data in certain settings, so if the patient has been in the mental health side, the GP will have a tab that connects through Graphnet with what’s happened to the patient, for example,” Dobson explains.

This is just one component of LHCRE, and the organisation will go out to procure for additional capabilities shortly.

The second programme involves a major review of Greater Manchester’s IT assets that will baseline current infrastructure used across 20 NHS and local government organisations involved in the partnership and identify how the cloud can support the region’s vision.

“Shaping Cloud won a procurement process and are doing an infrastructure and cloud readiness assessment across most of our organisations across Greater Manchester,” Dobson explains.

Dobson says that there is not any magic bullet when it comes to cloud, however, despite GMHSC striving to encourage those within its partnership to use cloud services.

“You can’t waltz into any acute organisation and pick all their stuff up and throw it into the cloud – it’s a long engagement process. I think of it more like our own partnership, in that we can get organisations to grow towards a structure. We want to get them more capabilities that cloud enables,” he says.

Dobson says that Shaping Cloud won the procurement process because of its engaging approach. “They have a really good way of engaging with organisations, and educating them into the cloud – they go into the organisation and put the entire team onto a foundation course, educate them in Microsoft Azure and bring them up to speed in some of the cloud approaches.”