Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has said it will save £1.4 million over the next five years by bringing its IT services in-house.
The community and mental health trust will use 40 permanent IT staff members to support and develop its IT systems rather than an “expensive, out-sourced support solution." Previously, 64% of IT support services were provided by contractors.
Ian Waterhouse, head of IT at Cumbria Partnership said the benefits of insourcing went beyond the potential efficiencies.
Speaking to Digital Health News, he said one of the main drivers was to use the skill set that already exists in Cumbria. He also argued that a local workforce can appreciate the benefits it is delivering for healthcare in the local community.
“There is far more engagement in job if its local people with their grandmother in hospital,” he said.
He added that the greater flexibility of having an in-house team was important, allowing the trust to scale up or scale down when necessary.
This includes the potential for weekend working. Waterhouse said this can involve substantial cost and a project management if outsourced, but should now just involve asking around the office to see who is keen to take on the extra work.
Waterhouse also mentioned that using full-time NHS staff meant the possibility of greater engagement with other NHS organisations as it would be easier to converge services.
To support the development of this team the trust has ring-fenced funding to re-invest in staff training and development, while there are two are two apprenticeships on offer.
The money saved on using outsourced IT services will also be used to support improvements in IT infrastructure at the trust, including two new data centres due to be completed this year.
Other immediate priorities for Cumbria include improving IT infrastructure and supporting the deployment of Servelec’s RiO electronic patient record by summer of 2016 to replace its existing CSC’s i.PM system.
This is part of the trusts five year IT strategy, which will be the bulk of the work of Cumbria Partnership’s IT staff.
Waterhouse described priorities in this strategy, including the move to ‘agile working’ to allow more people to work from different places using mobile devices – a particular important issue in Cumbria considering how rural the area is.
The trust is also working on improve interoperability, with an aim to better link organisations in the region, and business intelligence in order to provide effective analysis of NHS data that can support improved patient outcomes.
Cumbria Partnership’s announcement comes as NHS organisation have been put under pressure by both NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and health secretary Jeremy Hunt to use fewer agency staff as part of measures to cut down on unnecessary spending.
Waterhouse said these comments show that Cumbria Partnership and NHS leadership are “on the same page”. “It reinforces that we are heading in the right direction.”