Herefordshire has become the first county in the UK to integrate its council and NHS IT services.
Zack Pandor, joint director of ICT for Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire, said public services in the county have had a long history of shared working.
In December 2007, Chris Bull became the chief executive of both the council and the primary care trust.
Pandor told E-Health Insider: “Since his appointment, Chris Bull has been encouraging the integration of all services, including IT.
“The NHS Health Informatics Service was already a shared service across the hospital trust and PCT and the council had its own ICT service. But it made sense to integrate, so we started talking about what we could do together better.
“The first thing we looked at was the training for our staff. We realised that we were using the same provider and by going to the provider together we could get better value for money.”
The integration of ICT is part of the county’s business transformation programmes. For example, Herefordshire Shared Services aims to bring together corporate services for the council, hospital trust and PCT to save money and reinvest in front-line services.
It also strengthens support for national IT programmes and Herefordshire Connects, a suite of projects aimed at helping the council and its partners to improve performance by integrating and modernising services.
Pandor said: “If you look at the interaction for someone who has had a stroke, they will have a range of requirements. They may need social care services, housing, support from GPs and specialist acute services.
“To join up these systems and services creates a range of opportunities that are truly immense to provide seamless care to citizens and patients.”
The public services partnership is in the process of integrating networks, creating a joint council and NHS website and consolidating data centres to improve disaster recovery and support the green agenda.
The integrated service will provide a full range of ICT services, including architecture, programme and project management, IT operations, applications support and knowledge management.
Pandor admitted there had been some concerns about the changes. “In any integration and merger of services, there is bound to be anxiety,” he said.
“It is recognised there is some duplication in the service. However, the whole process has been very open and transparent, and teams are working very well together.”
Pandor took over from the head of IT at the council on an interim basis after his predecessor retired in October. His role was formalised in April this year.
Pandor said: “Since then, the integration of two into one happened more fully. We now have a single management team and are working towards integration in a number of areas. That includes integrating both help desks, technical support teams and others.”
He also said other counties might follow suit. “The state of public sector finance over the next few years means that shared services are going to be on everyone’s agenda, there’s no getting away from that.
“We’ve already had a lot of people coming to us and asking how we’re doing it. There have been people from Wales and the North of England and London who are very interested and are already in the early stages of talks.”