During the midway point of our first HTN Now Series of the year, we aired a fantastic talk by Beth Lawton, Chief Digital & Information Officer at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT).
Working for a large mental health and learning disabilities trust with over 6,000 staff, Beth was keen to be collaborative and open. The majority of her presentation revolved around sharing her processes, learnings and experiences to encourage others and help the audience to avoid common pitfalls.
In a wide-ranging session, she covered many aspects of digital journeys, from continual user engagement and agile project management to pilots and iterative development.
For a little bit of background on her Trust and the diverse area it supports, Beth said: “Geographically we have quite a wide patch – we cover all of East and West Sussex plus some of Hampshire.
“So from the east we’re coming in from about Rye, right the way across to the New Forest and beyond in Hampshire, down as far as the coast and up as far as Gatwick and Crawley. So a really good chunk of ground.
“Over that patch we’ve got 139 sites, including eight inpatient facilities. So the big challenge for us is our infrastructure, as well as services that sit on that.”
Highlighting how far digital has come and what it used to be like, Beth explained: “10, 20,30 years ago largely we had poor IT skills within the workforce…I got my first job in IT because I was the only person in the office who’d ever used a personal computer.”
But now Beth mentions, the challenges often come because, “everyone is an expert in IT. We all have digital devices in our pockets, in our bags…and that means everybody’s expectations of digital in the workplace have changed.
“You could almost argue that there’s too much software choice out there at the moment. You could have a full-time job investigating and evaluating the myriad of software products…that makes finding the right product and being confident that you’ve got the right product quite challenging.”
Beth also noted that as, “digital professionals now we’re contending with people who can download something from the internet for use in their department, especially if we haven’t quite got the local controls right, and start using technology. Web-based security implications [go] up the wazoo.
“But we’re working in a different environment where free low-cost solutions are available to anyone. And if we don’t provide people with what they need in a corporate setting, then they will go and find it themselves…which can cause a multitude of problems. There is a real need for us to move and adapt.”
Going on to discuss SPFT specifically, Beth said: “I’ll share the approach that we’ve taken, share some of our successes and maybe some of the things that didn’t work quite so well, with the hope that you will find some of that helpful.
“We wanted to move from building solutions for users, to building solutions with users…we wanted to work at embedding the technology rather than just delivering it and then retreating…and to make sure everything we did was integrated with data.”
The Sussex Partnership CDIO then went on to share her ‘Digital Design Principles’ checklist via a useful slide that covered the dos’ and don’ts – or rather the ‘Digital Wills’ and ‘Digital Will Nots’ – on a range of areas. These included being inclusive, integrated and informed. It also encompassed ideas ranging from co-design to measurable outcomes and to ‘ensure business intelligence and data inform and drive’ design processes.
Beth was also keen, however, to emphasise that the ability to implement changes can go beyond the tech, adding: “We can introduce new thinking as well as new technology.”
Hear about Beth’s and the SPFT’s experiences on their digital journey, in full, below: