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Video: NHSX explains what a good Blueprint looks like

As part of our most recent HTN Now series in September, we were joined by representatives from the NHSX Blueprint Steering Committee for a special live session on the digital Blueprinting Programme, which provides health and care staff with access to shared learning and resources.

We’re continuing to recap the series of digital webcasts that we aired at the start of autumn, so that we can keep sharing the experiences, guidance and advice of the health tech professionals that presented for us across the four-day event.

Next we take a look back at the talk from Paul Charnley, Digital Lead at Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership and C0-Chair of the NHSX Blueprinting Steering Group, and Dr James Reed, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, who is also a Co-Chair of the Blueprinting Steering Group.

In an introductory video on the benefits of Blueprints, Paul said: “The benefits of investment in digital technologies are often difficult to achieve and where people have been successful it’s important to be able to pass that knowledge on, so that we replicate and disseminate the technologies to other parts of the systems as quickly as possible, avoiding mistakes that have been made in the past.”

James added: “Through some of the Blueprinting you can quickly deploy something that’s been proven elsewhere with a tested methodology. It’s definitely very useful to see what others have done, to pick up on the good practice and to avoid some of the pitfalls that they have fallen into. I can’t think of anywhere else really, where you could look, that would bring together this body of structured knowledge in this way – I think that’s what’s unique about this work.

“Even internationally, I can’t think of anything that’s an equivalent to it. The fact [that] this is something we built in the NHS, for the direct benefit of other NHS organisations, makes it unique.”

Paul then explained, “now that ‘What Good Looks Like’ guidance has come out, we’re looking to place the Blueprints that show how you can improve on what you look like – in terms of that framework – as you step into understanding your current level and what you might do to improve.”

The team then went on to explain exactly what a Blueprint is – with Paul stating: “It’s a structured collection of assets…it aims to give speed to benefit, reduce the costly mistakes and allow things to proceed more efficiently. It covers a whole range of digital initiatives – from perhaps ‘softer’ issues such as transformation and change through to the digital technologies involved and how they were implemented.”

“It isn’t a mandatory instruction to follow, it’s a step-by-step guide that each organisation would need to take and adapt to its local needs,” he said.

On the status of the programme currently, Paul added that the NHS Futures Platform, which houses the Blueprints, now has over 2,500 users with around 60 added over the last month. It now features more than 170 full Blueprints, with more in the pipeline waiting for sign-off, and over 2,900 searchable artefacts. In addition, between January and August 2021, users downloaded 512 Blueprints and 2,370 artefacts.

Providing an update on the Digital Aspirants (DAs), Paul said the team had now contacted 30 ‘first wave’ and early ‘second wave’ DAs to ‘kick-start’ the Blueprinting process. Around 26 then attended the introductory workshops – with more on the way. According to Paul, 36 new Blueprint proposals have been given the go-ahead by the Steering Group and are now in production.

Directing his comments at the audience watching, he added: “We’d be interested in people producing Blueprints. So, if you have anything that you’d like to Blueprint for us, do get in touch.”

Paul then quickly divided up the advice on what a Blueprint should and shouldn’t consist of, highlighting that they should act as a record of experience about your digital innovation, including lessons learned, supporting information, artefacts and tools, as well as searchable and filterable information and a description of both the benefits and challenges faced. What they should not include, he said, were ‘one-size-fits-all’ guidelines, a static collection of material that does not evolve over time, or a marketing instrument.

After delving into more detail about the number, and types, of documents that a Blueprint can comprise of – including a core Blueprint, a single page summary, and a technical annex – and the different audiences that these are intended for, he also explained the review process that people will go through before being published.

Next showing a model of what the team are trying to Blueprint, Paul stated: “We’re at the stage of, having got the majority…of those areas covered…we estimate there are 100 where we are looking for Blueprints to cover gaps.”

James commented: “It’s been important, all [the way] through, actually, that we’ve had good clinical involvement in the whole process.”

He then introduced some other guest speakers, including David Hewitt, CIO of North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, who explained that, as a Digital Aspirant, they had published a Blueprint on digitising child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Explaining that the process could at first seem daunting and structured, he added that, “as you start to move into that process you can see the logical stages that you need to work to.”

“It’s been a positive experience and something that we’ve used within the trust as well,” he said.

David then provided his own overview experience of the process and project, before handing over to St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to explain their Blueprinting journey and challenges, too. Paul then came back in the frame to answer our audience’s questions.

You can watch the session, and find out more about North Staffordshire and St Helens and Knowsley’s Blueprinting case studies, via the video below: