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Building a digital and data structure for Leeds


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Leonardo Tantari, chief digital and information officer for the city’s council and CCG, outlines the priorities of their strategic vision

It is six months since I became joint chief digital and information officer for the city council and clinical commissioning group (CCG) in Leeds, and we feel we’ve made a solid start at providing the digital foundations of a stronger integration between local government and healthcare services.

We’re aiming to take this beyond the two organisations to incorporate all of those delivering frontline services around the city, and building the business model and culture for a robust, joined up approach to how they use digital and data.

The council and CCG already had a record of working together, collaborating on the development of the Leeds Care Record (LCR) and the former providing IT helpdesk and other services to the latter and to local GPs. But it was not a formal shared services operation and there was a sense that it needed a stronger arrangement to support the development of networks, infrastructure, business partnerships and innovation.

I was brought in to create an integrated digital services team for the city and to build a structure for exploiting technology and data for better services in Leeds.

Costs are shared between the council and CCG, with me reporting to the former’s director of resources Neil Evans and the latter’s chief executive officer Tim Ryley, in both cases working closely with their executive teams and those of other organisations such as Leeds Community Healthcare and the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for mental health and disability services.

Shaping capacity

We’re planning to announce the structure of our senior leadership team soon, but we have already set up a routine reporting on activities for all groups on a monthly basis, with quarterly reviews on how the teams are performing. This is already helping us to shape our capacity and to identify how we can bring elements of digital and data together around the city.

As a step towards prioritising major projects we’ve created a repository of information on all the projects in local government and healthcare so we can obtain a clear view of what we have in the pipeline, and are setting up a design authority to establish if we have the right design information to proceed with their delivery.

Corporate leadership teams are helping to establish the priorities behind the projects, such as whether they are driven by legislative requirements, a desire for service improvements or to deliver financial savings. This is combined with our information on available resources to establish whether it can be handled in-house, delegated to partners or requires going to the market for support.

Ultimately there will never be enough capacity to meet everyone’s idea of what should be a priority, and we are placing an emphasis on continual communication with each head of service so they are aware of our capabilities and whether they need to change any plans. It is a methodical approach in which transparency is highly important.

Foundation for vision

This provides a foundation for our strategic vision, which involves a high level of digitisation of services to give people access from anywhere at any time and ensuring that our teams take an agile approach to service development and innovation.

The two organisations have specific priorities for themselves. For the council the creation of new web team to renew its website is high on the agenda, with the aim of making it easier for the public to access services online, along with improving the digital elements of the planning system and helping to reduce the financial strain on social care. For the CCG it involves improving the IT provision for GPs, improving the integration of different sources of data and focusing on population health management.

But the great advantage of the new approach is in focusing on common priorities. One of these is to build on the success of the Leeds Care Record, which enables clinical and care staff to view real time information on patients from different providers – including hospitals, social services and mental health teams – through a secure system.

It has now been in place for a few years, has taken in more sources of data and shown the value of a service built to reflect needs within the city rather than on an organisational basis.

There are now plans to build on this by enabling integration with the Yorkshire and Humber Care Record, reflecting the fact that people in the region often need support from across the local boundaries.

We also want to add a ‘write’ function to the record so more professionals can add information. This is a complex subject with some stiff demands on information governance, and we need to understand who has a legitimate case to add to the record and what sort of operational impact it could have – something that will take time but which is crucial to getting it right.

Analytics ambitions

Another joint initiative is the creation of a Leeds Office of Data Analytics. For some time there has been talk about the difficulties of finding a clear sight of the data available on the city and the need for a single repository, along with the fact that provisioning the data still involves a lot of manual work. We aim to provide a repository in the form of a platform that can take data from a variety of sources, using automation wherever possible, both to support data sharing and its analysis for insights and planning.

We can draw on the experience of established bodies around the city, notably the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics in the university and Data Mill North, in developing the Office of Data Analytics, exploiting the potential of open data and obtaining the insights from analysis. And it makes sense to do this for the city as a whole, not just a handful of organisations.

Cyber security is another of our priorities, with the aim of ensuring that it is joined up across the different sectors to reduce the risk of any weak points emerging in the integration of digital systems. I have responsibility for cyber and information governance across the council and CCG, with the extra role of senior responsible information owner for the latter.

We have also identified technology priorities including a move to a multi-cloud model to support services. We are running analytics on Microsoft Azure and using resources in AWS to support developments with mobile tech, and looking to develop a community cloud, in which organisations around the city can share cloud services as part of a common deal with providers.

This will come with making more of mobile technology, and the automation of more services, increasing online self-service and the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

We also recognise the need to develop in-house skills, are taking steps to provide more training and have a longer term ambition to establish a public sector academy for the city.

Underpinning all this is the core message of integration, digitisation and a focus on data sharing to support not just the integration of care, but a wide range of joined up services around Leeds. Leaders in the city believe it is the right journey and that formalising the teams to make it happen is an important early step.

Image from Leeds City Council

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