The Journey to Change in the NHS: The Impact of Covid on Delivery of Digital Services

The NHS’s vaccine roll-out has rightly been lauded by the entire country as a result of its impeccable organisation and the impressive figures boasted, with over 5.1 million fully vaccinated and 31.4 million adults receiving their first dose, according to official government figures given this week.

Whilst the personnel in the NHS have been admirable throughout this arduous period and long before it , the vast majority of vaccinations being booked online does make you think about the technological advances within the health service in recent years, as several regional trusts and centralised bodies have embarked on digital transformations even prior to the pandemic.

There are few better people to speak to on the subject than Rachel Murphy, CEO and founder of Difrent, spending over two decades in government and health services before setting up Difrent in 2017, who focus on delivering user-focused solutions into the public sector.

Rachel Murphy, CEO of Difrent
Caption: Rachel Murphy believes the public sector is now embracing digital change

Rachel said: “There has been a sudden shift in the adoption of digital services in medicine over the last ten years, adopting remote care, more collaborative ways of health professionals working digitally.”

These changes may well have been the apparatus for which the NHS trusts and arms-length organisations were able to adapt to a further reliance on technology in the past year, but equally the pace of which this was done may change the public sector’s outlook onto its own ways of working.

Difrent were involved in the delivery of a Covid testing service for NHS staff in just eight days, with over 40% of front line staff isolating it was imperative a service was stood up at pace to ensure NHS staff got back safely to the frontline.

“We had to throw the rule book out with that, it was unchartered territory, but we had over a million tests sent out in the first six weeks. Five or ten years ago, we would not have had the digital tools to do that.”

Rachel Murphy, CEO of Difrent

Rachel has been at the forefront of some significant digital changes in the NHS, including leading the empower the person programme which was responsible for all patient facing transformation in the NHS and more recently the delivery of the central NHS Jobs portal, which is currently used by over 40% of GPs and trusts, providing a far more efficient service, reducing costs and improving the time to hire.

Thank you NHS
Caption: One of the familiar tributes to the NHS for their work

But can the proverbial red tape, that some have perceived as a hinderance to the speed of delivery within the public sector, be torn up due to the success of the speed in projects such as mass NHS testing?

Rachel said: “The reality is that it won’t continue at that pace, however we can learn a lot from the lack of red tape. We can bring this into the future and hopefully learn from it.”

So although the NHS have embraced digital change more in the previous decade or so, will the new pace of delivery during the pandemic alter the way in which it is brought into the central bodies and individual trusts across the UK?

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