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The structure of the NHS can often make it difficult for separate bodies within the organisation to align with each other and communicate effectively.
The NHS Central Southern Commissioning Support Unit (Central Southern CSU) is one of the largest support units in the UK, covering 14 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups.
This large area of coverage made it difficult for the unit to provide the support its groups required, so Central Southern CSU selected a collaboration platform from Clarizen to help projects run more efficiently and increase collaboration across the board.
The commissioning groups covered by Central Southern look after more than 3.7 million patients between them. The unit supports these groups through a combination of analytics and contract support, as well as many other essential support services.
“The point of the organisations coming together, and the drive around it in the NHS, was to be more efficient,” says Alison Foster, director of clinical quality and transformation for the NHS Central Southern CSU.
As part of the collaboration project, several of the clinical commissioning groups under the Central Southern umbrella were merged to prevent duplication of projects and services.
For example, there could be two medical research projects in the region focused on the same subject, so a system for collaboration was needed either to cut duplicate projects or allow the sharing of information between them.
The mergers also meant geographically separate organisations needed to work quite closely, which required a huge amount of collaboration and communication to effectively complete projects and reach goals.
Leaving the legacy behind
Many of the bodies were already using their own bespoke systems, while others were using software such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project to create documents, which would then be shared around and between organisations via email.
A lot of data was also shared in face-to-face meetings, which wasted time as it meant employees often had to travel to different sites to attend these meetings.
Clarizen was among six companies considered by Central Southern CSU, but was chosen due to its ability to provide resource planning and the appeal of its user-friendly platform.
The Clarizen collaboration platform provides a single view of projects to employees who need it. This information is kept fully up to date and is available in real time.
Having a single place to store project documents has allowed faster deployment of projects and created a central data hub which can be searched quickly.
NHS organisations must adhere to strict guidelines. Central Southern CSU is now more secure and adherent to code of conduct because everything is stored centrally rather than dispersed or kept by one person.
The data held by Central Southern cannot be used to identify a patient, and much of the data it works with can be subject to freedom of information requests, but the Clarizen system allows an extra layer of security to be implemented should it be needed.
Central Southern staff are now using the Clarizen system for time recording and the unit has begun capturing performance data to track the improvement in efficiency of operations.
Approximately 80% of the staff are using it for project management purposes and to collaborate on project documents.
This has led to improved people resource planning, more accountability for changes, better resource management and increased business resilience.
“Making time visible enabled us to make faster and better decisions about how we would use our time, direct our time and how to target priorities,” says Foster.
Coping with transformation
But with so many different types of business coming together under one umbrella, it was difficult to get everyone on board with the transformation.
One of the benefits of using the new system is that it is able to cater to staff working on different projects with a range of different needs, according to Foster.
She says the IT team was dealing with more detailed data than some other employees, and was previously using Microsoft Project. “We piloted a team in that area to understand how we might bring everyone else on board,” she says.
After a few teams had trialled the system to understand the minimum and more detailed requirements for each of the teams, the organisation came up with a set of guidelines for wider roll-out.
There was some double-running of projects, and local champions were elected across the groups to provide support for those who needed more time to transfer.
“There’s always resistance. We did have some resistance to moving across from what people felt comfortable with, particularly with Microsoft Project,” says Foster. “People were keeping their projects on Microsoft Project because they felt they needed to build up the confidence that the new system would be OK.”