Could NHS reorganisation have created the NHS IT services model of the future?

I had an interesting conversation with Nathan Allmont, who is Infrastructure Manager at Dudley IT Services. The story of the company is really interesting and shows an alternative way of delivering IT to NHS organisations. Could internal IT departments within NHS organisations start selling to commercial businesses.

This could bring new money into the NHS and would be more attractive than closing down frontline NHS services.

I didn’t think it possible to have an industry more complicated by acronyms than the IT sector, but the NHS is worse. The NHS is made up of SHAs, PCTs, NCBs, CCGs, DMICs and CSUs for example. But after having a chat with Nathan I managed to understand the story of Dudley IT services.

Dudley IT services was the IT department of the Dudley Primary Care Trust (PCT). Using its £8 million it provided IT services to Dudley & Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust, West Midlands Healthcare Commissioning Services, Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust, Community Services within The Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust. The services are provided from our data centre.

But as part of the re-organisation of the NHS in April last year, which saw PCTs scaled down Dudley IT Services was left out in the cold.

John Thornbury, former IT director at Worcestershire Health, joined The Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust last year and started discussions with Dudley NHS Head of IT, about buying the Dudley IT Services from the PCT with the view of using the skills and data centre for more cost effective IT service to the local health economy.

The company is now part of The Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust and continues to supply IT services to the organisations as it did before. But it is now expanding its services and winning contracts with NHS organisations all over the country to offer services from its datacenter. It is even talking to potential commercial customers about services.

Every penny it makes stays within the NHS. It is either reinvested in the Dudley IT Services operation or goes directly back to the NHS. Given the fact that the government is closing down and scaling back hospital wings this model should be investigated further.

And Dudley IT Services is offering some high-end services. With the support of IT service provider CSA Waverley is currently installing an enterprise data warehouse from HP/Microsoft, also known as a parallel data warehouse, for the Data Management Integration Centre (DMIC) department of the Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) which now provides the corporate functions that the PCTs previously did. The implementation was the biggest of its kind in the UK when it was installed. It supports all the number crunching required by NHS organisations to work out how much everything costs. The new system has reduced a 48 hour data processing task to two hours.