Feature Content, Interview

Interview Series: Ade Odunlade, Chief Operating Officer for Derbyshire Healthcare, discusses how data can assist the NHS recovery

In our latest interview in the series, we head to Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to chat to its Chief Operating Officer (COO), Ade Odunlade, about all things data. We find out all about his work with RwHealth’s data science platform and how he sees data analytics helping to support mental health services, address the NHS backlog and tackle the COVID-19 recovery.

Hi Ade, tell us a little bit about you and your leadership career so far

I did a degree in economics and communications and, straight after university, I launched into the corporate world as a corporate development manager. In my later years, I moved to computer programming and, from there, ventured into the world of psychology and did my mental health training. I went for specialisation to become a sex and relationships therapist and, in between all of this, I trained as a medical sociologist [too].

What was important is that I was very into my role as a clinician and a clinical leader. I didn’t really start with the intention of being a manager per se, it was only when I was asked to help manage and support services that I found myself transitioning from being a senior clinician to being a manager.

Then that transitioned into leading a whole suite of services, and I went back to what I love best – trying to do more clinical work but with a little bit of managerial oversight. I left the NHS for a while, to try and establish a number of services with an organisation, and I was invited to work with an independent provider who had some challenges and asked me to help out. Somehow, I ended up being a Chief Exec! Then, within 12 months, I became a Group Chief Exec.

After a few years, I decided to go back to the NHS and I returned to acute services – mental health, learning disabilities, and so on. After a while, I became a Managing Director in London, and I’ve now become a Chief Operating Officer in Derbyshire. In between all of that, I’ve managed to gain a medical law degree and I’m working on a PhD about research observations across a number of sites. All in a day’s work!

I think the trick is doing something you love and enjoy, and also that relates [to your work]. What I look at is how to provide solutions to challenges – and that’s what I’m studying. I’m looking at the impact of violence on staff and how they respond to that, in terms of patient care.

What’s your view of the mental health sector at the moment?

My view of the mental health sector is that I think we’re living in one of the – I won’t say the best years – but one of the better years that we’ve had. There has been a much bigger emphasis, nationally, on the importance of mental health and how it’s equally as important as physical health, if not more. People are beginning to have that self-awareness about the need to look after their mental health. There’s been a national drive.

I did work for Claire Muddoch [CBE, Chief Executive of the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust], who is the national director [for mental health], and she’s been at the forefront of pushing the mental health agenda across the country. I salute her courage, she’s been amazing at helping to ensure that more funds go into mental health.

A lot of us have responded to that, pushing the agenda forward and making sure that we deliver for people in their communities. I think we’re on a journey to having better mental health services across the country. We’re not there yet but [it’s] much better than when I started – much, much better. People have put in a lot of hard work to ensure that things are different.

How have you worked with RwHealth and its data science platform in this area?

We’re beginning to embrace ideas from other areas, which is how RwHealth comes into play. We are now open and able to assess that we need an understanding of data, and we need analytics behind it to ensure we target the specific areas where we have challenges. We need to be able to use that as a medium of conversation, for making decisions, to ensure that behaviour patterns within the service are highlighted, and to understand what we are doing well, and what we aren’t doing so well.

It’s an enabler and [RwHealth] have been good at supporting that. The more challenges, the more questions we throw at them, the more they rise up to the challenge and become even better. Having worked with them now for a number of years, maybe four years [including previously at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust], I’ve seen the development of analytics in mental health. We’re beginning to understand predictions – we are able to predict and understand how to use those to match the resources that are provided.

It [working with RwHealth data science platform] has also given us the opportunity to understand variations in services, what those are and why they exist.

It’s also helped us to understand how our services are performing. A lot of people think that managing performance can be quite scary but, I think, that it’s something to embrace. When you have data that tells you what is going on, it also acts as encouragement to a lot of staff – they can see how well they are doing, what they can do more of, or do differently.

So, I think, they’ve brought a new dimension to the way we work. It’s a way of having communication with patients – having them look at the data with us, and also contributing and co-producing solutions with us.

How can this kind of data usage help with the NHS backlog and recovery from COVID?

Data has an important part to play in recovery. In fact, it’s really important that we use data because it tells us the flow within the system, where we need to take actions, and how we can tweak and influence the flow, to give patients a better service. It is an integral part of managing waiting lists or understanding how services are shaped.

How does RwHealth platform help with Multi Agency Discharge Events (MADE)?

[MADE] means putting a emphasis on discharge issues, understanding it better and brining in all of the different stakeholders to do an in-depth analysis of what is actually causing the delays [to discharge], and potentially influencing the unblocking of those delays to ensure things start to go smoothly.

It’s really important because, if people are delayed, it has implications for recovery – that’s a risk. It’s also important that it allows us to be timely in admitting people who need to be in beds, so that we’re not sending them out of the area or delaying their treatment due to bed capacity issues.

It’s important to think through our flow, what we’re doing, where the blockages might be in our system, and how we can improve it. It’s about how we work together with local housing to support the patient to move into better accommodation, where the process and journey of recovery can continue.

RwHealth has been helpful by supporting a lot of insights into all of that for us and being able to ensure that we all work together to try and unblock the problem, to make sure we are thinking about the flow and understanding it more. We look at the patient journey, how they are moving and how many flash-points they are touching within the organisation.

We always want to make sure, as an organisation, that we have the right care, at the right time, in the right place. In order to do that, flow is essential.

Do you have any impactful examples to share from your previous projects with RwHealth at Central and North West London?

I have to say, all of their work has been impactful and supportive to how we run the services. The insight, the analytics we get, helps provide better support for staff and patients. [It helps us] understand who is in a bed, what patient category they are, how long they are staying, why there are delays, and which day of the week is problematic.

One of the other aspects is understanding how many different services a single patient touches and how long they are staying in those. Do all of the services know that the patient has been touching all of the services? Is there a way of thinking differently about coordinating care for that individual?

What’s extremely useful is understanding the variations in service provision – what does it look like? Why is it there, in the first instance? When we start talking about equity, that is really important. It’s not just about equal services, it’s about equity – where we can provide more or less, what will be impactful, how the patient will experience our services, and how we can have meaningful engagement.

It gives us complete oversight, in terms of governance, too. And we can actually provide insight into our day-to-day work and have engaging clinical discussions with each other. We can say, ‘this is what the data is telling us’ – sometimes they [staff] may have a different opinion, or it may be a case of ‘now we know why we have been feeling that way’, or ‘now we know that, we can do something differently’. It provides the basis of engaging conversation and it does that by using facts, rather than fiction.

Do you have any more plans to work with the data science platform in the future?

Yes, there are some plans. We are [hoping] to develop a partnership. I would like to see how we can work together collectively, to develop further. We are now thinking about how we can apply all the analytics to our community services and out-of-hospital services, and how that relates to inpatient services.

It can become a ‘whole service’ approach and a ‘whole system’ discussion. I would like us to be a data-driven organisation [at Derbyshire Healthcare] – we are very big on people [strategies], and I would like to see if we can combine people, environmental, compassion, and data, to be a caring organisation for both staff and patients. That would be an excellent organisation, don’t you think?