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Northern Care Alliance signs Hitachi Consulting for Digital Control Centre


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Northern Care Alliance of NHS hospitals has agreed on a partnership with Hitachi Consulting to develop its Digital Control Centre.

It said the centre, initially to be deployed across Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, will provide an intelligent system using digitisation and automation to supply staff with information to support patient care. It will also utilise advanced analytics and internet of things (IoT) technologies to help staff match available resources to needs.

The programme – the plan for which became public in 2017 – will be run under a 10-year contract with Hitachi Consulting, overseen by Northern Care Alliance chief executive Raj Jain in collaboration with clinical and non-clinical staff.  The contract award notice set the value of the deal at £50 million.

The Digital Control Centre will deliver capabilities across three core areas. One will involve operational intelligence, strategic planning and simulation, helping the trust to make accurate

The second is around demand and capacity planning and smart scheduling, developing real time insights on issues such as resources, bed availability and discharge planning.

Thirdly, it will focus on patient insights and patient flow, aimed at reducing delays in treatment and follow-up care.

Expected benefits

Salford Royal said the move will provide significant benefits, making care more personal and timelier, and should increase staff satisfaction by reducing the time spent in chasing data and filling forms. It will also enable staff to optimise the use of beds, operating theatres and equipment.

Jain said: “The change will impact on staff right across the organisation. Supporting staff to determine and deliver these improvements is what is key.

“The technology is the innovation that enables staff to transform, but it is the staff that will deliver the benefits. Committed and consistent clinical and managerial leadership is key. In Salford we are able to build on the existing outstanding leadership (CQC Well Led assessment) to make the best out of 21st century technology.”

He added “We believe this programme will revolutionise the system, enhancing the care and experience we offer to our patients.”

Urgent care priority

The first phase of the programme will be focused on urgent care in the hospital and involve work on producing patient insights and flow management tools. These should provide staff in the emergency village with near real time information on attendance and admission history, key clinical indicators from patient history, admission risk and standard patient scores that can be used to assign them to the correct care pathways.

It will also involve the development of demand management tools to improve real time decision making, such as semi-automatic bed planning.

Another plan is to develop a digital replica of the organisation, enabling clinicians and operational managers to model potential changes in the organisation of care. 

The programme will initially focus on Salford Royal with a longer term plan to develop into the Northern Care Alliance’s other sites. The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is also in the alliance, along with hospitals in Oldham, Bury, Rochdale and North Manchester.

Other private sector partners involved are KPMG, ExtraMed, Microsoft and CenTrak.

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