Secret weapons and C-3POs were surprising soundbites from the UK Health Show in London  this week.

On Tuesday, the ‘What have we learnt from the Global Digital Exemplars (GDEs)?’ panel session was held at the event at ExCel London.

The panel included Paul Charnley, director of IT and Information at Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Steve Gray, CIO at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, Robert Howorth, informatics director at The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Beverley Bryant, chief operation officer at System C & Graphnet Care Alliance.

During the session, a member of the audience asked how clinical engagement could be improved.

In response, Gray dubbed the nursing informatics team at his trust the ‘secret weapon’ in helping drive staff to use IT.

He also revealed the unique nickname he had for the informatics team. “We call them C-3POs,” he said, referring to the CIO, CCIO and CNIOs.

Gray said that his trust didn’t have COWs (computers on workstation), but rather GOATs (gadgets on a trolley).

Gray’s trust and Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are both GDEs.

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a fast follower of Wirral.

When asked how the GDE journey had been, Paul Charnley said his trust was “still learning”.

He added: “We don’t know all the answers.

“We’re learning to accept knowledge from others.”

Rob Howorth added that it was “still early days” for NHS England’s flagship digital programme.

The importance of building technology with the user in mind was also raised as an issue.

On this topic, Beverley Bryant said suppliers “have to start with the user” when creating clinical technology.

She added: “Without clinical usability, you might as well forget it.”

The topic of ‘blueprinting’, which is the term given to how GDEs can share the knowledge they have gained, was also discussed by the panel.

Paul admitted it was something the GDEs were “struggling with”, adding the “competitive landscape” meant it was difficult to get suppliers to allow their products to be shared with other trusts.

NHS Digital’s CEO, Sarah Wilkinson, was also at the two-day event and gave a speech on how “we are entering the era of self service and mobility of data”.

Meanwhile Juliet Bauer, NHS England’s chief digital officer, announced that the NHS App would launch to private beta testers across England from 27 September.