Let's Talk

HTN Let’s Talk: The role of digital in supporting the Humber Teaching NHS green strategy

Welcome to our brand new podcast HTN Let’s Talk, supported by Spirit Health!

In episode one, we explore how digital is supporting sustainability and a greener NHS. HTN’s Katie Smith speaks with Alex Fowler (Environmental Manager), Stephen Roberts (Environmental and Waste Manager) and Lee Rickles (Yorkshire and Humber Care Record Director and CIO) at Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust.

To start off, Alex explained what they are working towards in their green plan: “We developed our green plan last year and it got board approved in January, in line with the ICS and national guidelines. What we are aiming for as a trust is to focus on our current digital technologies and to streamline our services to improve our supporting functions with that. Also reducing the use of paper records, printing, posting, travel – all those elements that link in.”

Digital transformation played a key part of their green plan, with the IT team introducing new platforms and ensuring correspondence outside the trusts walls is largely digital: “We introduced like most the use of platforms like Microsoft Teams for meetings…and all communications to practices are also electronic through Lorenzo and SystmOne, so there is less printing, no paper, and it’s available immediately.”

Lee joined the conversation by commenting on the benefits of record sharing across the Humber region, and the use of video conferencing, which Lee said “was in the background before COVID, and since it’s come in, it has absolutely taken off.”

Stephen explained how the pandemic accelerated their digital journey. “We have to achieve net zero carbon by 2045,” he said, and COVID’s impact on the use of digital platforms “has enabled us to do all sorts of things. These things have been coming, and they have been for some time, the pandemic has really accelerated that.”

“That move did create different ways of working,” said Lee, “again, it’s moving it towards a more sustainable method.” He noted that the learnings from the pandemic can already be viewed in electronic prescribing, virtual wards, video conferncing, and decision making that can be done through digital tools, rather than face to face meetings.

Touching on the challenges and what has gone well, Lee commented that there is always a challenge, whether it’s people, process or technology. A particular challenge, especially coming out of COVID, is “to keep the sustainability agenda moving and progressing,” he said. It’s not about making change happen to put shiny tech in, or because everybody wants to move to cloud services. “We’re going to cloud because it’s more efficient, effective, reliable and secure than on premises.”

In regards to what has made the biggest impact, Alex said that staff transportation has played an important role.

“When it comes to digital transformation, I’d say it’s definitely the working from home and the transportation of staff across the patch,” he said, “because we cover East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and all over… people [aren’t] having to travel from Hull to Malton to have a short meeting and drive back again. What the IT team have done is really brought it together – people can still do it if they need to, but they don’t [have to].”

The benefits of digital platforms “to the NHS, tous as individuals, managers and the workforce is just endless,” said Stephen.

In terms of how digital impacts patients, Lee stated: “We are now moving to apps rather than paper… it’s changing how we work. Patients are not wanting to travel, no-one wants to travel for a 15 minute appointment… it’s a lot of time and effort.”

Many thanks to the team from Humber Teaching Hospitals for joining us!