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NHS England - Transformation Directorate

Digital Aspirant funding in Rotherham supports local people to stay well and independent

What was the aim?

The vision of Rotherham Place, Rotherham's integrated health and social care plan, is to put local people at the heart of services. The aim is to help people to stay well and independent in their own homes and communities and avoid being admitted to hospital. Rotherham Place champions a digital-first culture to improve experiences for all people in Rotherham.

Two Digital Aspirant-funded NHS trusts serve the Rotherham area: The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH). Both Trusts NHS trusts were named amongst the first sites to join NHSX’s Digital Aspirant (DA) programme. They will each receive up to £6m over the duration of the programme to help deliver their digital ambitions. The ambitions of Rotherham Place extend beyond the hospital trusts and plans are in place to share Digital Aspirant funding more broadly, including with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, charity Voluntary Action Rotherham, and acute, community, hospice and primary care services. This partnership approach will enable the advancements in digital maturity to benefit across the patient pathway.

What was the solution?

DA funding has enabled progress towards the Rotherham Place vision through support to multiple digital maturity projects in the first of the trusts’ participation in the programme. The projects being delivered as part of the DA Programme impact the following priority areas:

  • Integration - IT systems across Rotherham will be better connected, providing improved access to real-time information for the purposes of direct patient care and care planning.
  • Data - Data will be more accurate, comprehensive, secure and easier to manage, improving its accessibility and application in areas from direct clinical care to informing service transformation and place-wide strategies.
  • Clinical - Clinical environments, pathways and processes will be optimised to support new ways of working, enabling clinicians to perform their roles even more effectively and freeing up more time for direct patient care.
  • Infrastructure - Maturity of the digital infrastructure across Rotherham partner organisations will increase significantly, providing a flexible and scalable footing on which existing and future digital transformation solutions can be built.

What were the results?

During the first year of the DA programme, improvements have been made to infrastructure across Rotherham to cope with the growing numbers of users needing to work across multiple locations in an agile way. Local core systems are being connected to enable the faster flow of information between services and organisational boundaries. This includes the capability to share and receive structured data, seamless messaging between systems, and offering the best digital tools for Rotherham citizens to interact with health and care services.

RDaSH has implemented new video conferencing and video consultation platforms. Microsoft Teams has been introduced as a video conferencing solution for internal meetings and as well as keeping teams in touch, it is also adaptable as a video consultation platform for use with patients and their relatives or advocates.

Airmid, a patient-facing app, was introduced at the start of the pandemic to enable video consultations with patients and, more recently, with their relatives or advocates. RDaSH has also implemented the ability to join video consultations via a link sent by SMS or email for those without the app. Other platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp have been introduced in the trust’s ward environments to enable virtual visits during national lockdown restrictions.

These new platforms have helped reduce the number of unnecessary face-to-face appointments, as well as patient and clinician travel time. They have also made it easier for patients to have a relative or carer supporting them during their appointment. Video consultation technology has allowed relatives and carers to join and contribute to multi-disciplinary teams meetings, care programme approaches and other key clinical appointments across inpatient and community settings when social distancing and visit restrictions prohibited them from attending in person. This technology has also supported other relatives who may have struggled due to distance, mobility or other commitments by enabling them to attend meetings in a more flexible and convenient way.    

RDaSH have also, as part of the ‘Digital Ward’ concept, introduced cameras and sensor devices into wards to monitor patient movement remotely from the nurse’s station.

TRFT has invested first year DA funds in infrastructure. Wifi has been doubled across the main hospital site, improving access for patients, enabling other Rotherham Place partners to access network services whilst on site and laying the foundations for future programme milestones. Telephone systems across the borough have been replaced with a modern, software-driven system which supports the trust’s clinic alert technology PACE. Almost all desktop devices have been replaced or upgraded, providing faster login times and improving user experience. The trust has also introduced a site-wide single sign on/tap functionality, improving clinician login times on inpatient wards and in the Urgent and Emergency Care Centre.

Before the single sign on was introduced, staff had to log in to the network using their username and password before they could access the electronic patient record. Now they ‘tap’ their smart card against the computer and it only takes 2 to 3 seconds to load up the EPR.

Next steps

Year one investment has laid the foundations for realising organisational and place-wide benefits into years two and three of the DA Programme. The two trusts are continuing to improve their digital maturity in year two, delivering projects such as eRostering, eObservations, virtual consultations and Electronic Patient Record (EPR)-linked clinical devices, all of which have a direct impact on the quality of care for patients.

In year three of the DA Programme, funding will be shared across Rotherham Place partner organisations, including Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Voluntary Action Rotherham and Rotherham Hospice.

This will support the continuation of joined-up work already achieved across key areas, such as the:

● Rotherham Health App which is currently being used by over 30,000 people to see their health record, change appointments, request repeat medications, refer direct to some services and more

● Rotherham Health Record, which pulls together data and information from multiple sources and presents it in one place


James Rawlinson, Director of Health Informatics at TRFT and CIO Lead South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System, said: "Due to the success of year one Digital Aspirant projects, we have been able to further reduce digital boundaries between partner organisations in Rotherham. It makes no sense to have one digitally advanced organisation in a swamp of less digitally advanced ones, and as our patients and staff don’t necessarily follow organisational boundaries, the idea of being able to interchange and exchange information across boundaries seamlessly is a digital goal that has a positive and lasting impact across The Place.”

Richard Banks, Director of Health Informatics at RDaSH, said ‘The Programme aims to accelerate the purchase, deployment and use of the technology we need to take forward the Trust’s digital transformation, in particular to support clinical colleagues and patient care. Digital technologies have played a crucial role in our response to COVID-19, and everyone across the Trust has worked tirelessly to deploy, implement and adapt to new ways of working. This included network upgrades and the introduction of over 400 additional laptops to enable remote and agile working.’