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Claire House Children’s Hospice opens up about its digital transformation triumphs

Claire House Children’s Hospice took home the Best of Show prize at the Best of VMworld 2017 Awards by sharing details of how technology is helping it achieve its aim of reaching every family who needs its help across the north-west of England

The Claire House Children’s Hospice team wants to reach every child and family that needs its support across the north-west of England, and has revamped its digital infrastructure to help it achieve this goal.

The charity, established in 1998, offers care for seriously and terminally ill children from its main base in The Wirral in Merseyside, and offers support for around 400 families across the region.

However, for every sick child and family who can access the services and support provided by Claire House, the hospice’s own research shows there is another who misses out.

To close the gap, the organisation recently acquired a former monastery in Liverpool, which has been majorly renovated to boost the number of sick children Claire House can treat both on-site and remotely through its Hospice to Home initiative.  

The remote service is invaluable to many of the families Claire House supports, says Liam Hayes, the organisation’s ICT services manager, by allowing their children to be treated in the familiarity and comfort of their own homes.

“As you can imagine, organising a trip – even a short one – with a terminally ill child or one with special needs can be an ordeal, particularly if you have auxiliary equipment, such as wheelchairs,” says Hayes.

“We wanted to minimise that [upheaval] as much as possible by using technology that allows us to bring the expertise of consultants, nurses and doctors to the homes of the children in need.”

Delivering such a service means the organisation’s staff need to have on-the-road access to appointment booking systems, patient contact details and medical notes at all times.

For this reason, its renovation work included a revamp of Claire House’s internal IT systems and infrastructure, which saw the Liverpool site kitted out with new networking and Wi-Fi equipment, and new servers.

This, in turn, is part of a wider push to improve the organisation’s resiliency and disaster recovery procedures, so the Liverpool site would offer failover support for the hospice’s Wirral-based headquarters.

“Primarily, what we’re looking to do with the Liverpool site is improve our business continuity by making sure our services stay online under all circumstances. We also wanted to improve availability and load balancing between sites, and increase our capacity in terms of the services we can offer,” says Hayes.

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To make the delivery of its Hospice to Home service possible, the organisation has worked with a number of suppliers, including Cisco Meraki, Dell, Microsoft and Nviron, to name a few.

Collectively, these companies have provided Claire House with the remote desktop, video-conferencing, productivity and collaboration tools needed to make working life as easy as possible for Claire House’s remote workers and its in-house teams.

“We’ve taken a hybrid approach, in that we use cloud and on-site technologies as well. Cloud is fantastic, and we get preferred pricing as a charity from some organisations, which does help with planning and strategy,” says Hayes.

“As a hospice and charity, though, we do have to adhere to NHS guidelines, and give careful consideration to what we put out to the cloud and what we keep on-premise.”

Support from Shop Direct

In terms of financing the renovations, Claire House received a helping hand from online retailer Shop Direct, whose 4,700-strong workforce voted for the hospice to become its preferred partner charity during 2016/17.

Over the 12 months the partnership ran for, Shop Direct’s staff embarked on a series of fundraising events for Claire House, which generated £440,000 in donations to support the organisation’s digital ambitions.

“As a hospice and charity, we have to adhere to NHS guidelines, and give careful consideration to what we put out to the cloud and what we keep on-premise”
Liam Hayes, Claire House Children’s Hospice

The retailer also worked closely with Claire House to establish an “innovation board”, which is now in place to provide the charity with ongoing guidance and support on how to build on the success it has had to date with its digital transformation.

Without this help, Hayes says developing the Liverpool site to the extent it has would have been a financial stretch, but Shop Direct’s fundraising efforts have allowed it to go “all out” on the project, which, incidentally, was crowned Best of Show at the Best of VMworld 2017 User Awards.

“It was brilliant to go to Shop Direct and tell them all the money raised by them for the project has been recognised because it won us an award and enabled us to provide an excellent service in ways that would not have otherwise been possible,” says Hayes.

Winning awards is one thing, but Hayes says seeing the positive impact the organisation’s digital transformation has had on staff, and the benefits it brings to the families who rely on Claire House, is reward enough.

“I see the evidence with nurses using mobile devices, travelling out to families, making bookings, sending out information and bringing what we do at Claire House into the home,” he says.

“I don’t expect a family to come back and say, ‘Thanks for providing those IT services’, but the evidence of the difference it makes is there, and I’m just happy to see it happen, and for it to work.”

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