Digital strategy from Bolton NHS FT shares tech focus to 2025

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust has published its digital strategy for 2022-2025, sharing their ambitions to become a digital trust, with focus on digital integration, care, workforce, infrastructure and estate.

Some of the aims set out in the strategy, include:

  • to integrate care to prevent ill health, improve wellbeing and meet the needs of the people of Bolton; patients will be given access to their health records to empower them to self-care using technology, and integration across the health and social care system is to support quick navigation to shared information for staff.
  • to provide safe, high quality and compassionate care to every person every time; the trust is working towards EPR implementation with the aim of creating “a safer, more sustainable and efficient working environment”, with the strategy noting that EPRs have the potential to support care pathways and the way care is delivered alongside acting as a clinical record. In addition, it shares an ambition to explore artificial intelligence and machine learning across services, with plans to use robotics and simulation to support service delivery and staff training.
  • to provide safe, high quality and compassionate care; the trust states that supporting staff to deliver services with appropriate technology is “critical to supporting our digital expansion” and shares a plan to provide equipment and solutions to enable staff to work differently.
  • the estate will be sustainable and developed in a way that supports health and wellbeing; with feedback indicates that user satisfaction will only be high if the devices used are built upon “resilient, stable and secure foundations, with excellent connectivity”, and the strategy confirms that attention will be paid to ensuring that technology is up-to-date, portable and meets differing needs, with strong cyber security.

For digital integration, the strategy shares some of the projects that are funded and already in progress, including developing virtual consultations, linking up with the Greater Manchester Care Record and  implementing an Innovation Hub to collaborate with partners for the purposes of co-development and research. New projects to be commenced include providing telehealth and telecare solutions to support patient-empowered care, and working with the Bolton borough-wide digital partnership body to assess and promote digital inclusion.

In the area of digital care delivery, the trust has been focusing on upgrading EPR infrastructure to support further roll out, with future projects to include the implementation of a voice recognition solution to allow clinicians to create documentation at source with direct integration into the EPR, implementation of a single GM imaging archive and use of robotics and AI to support back-office admin functions and clinical decision making.

With regards to digital workforce, the strategy lays some of the actions already taken such as how the trust is supporting agile and remote working; providing virtual smart cards to allow staff immediate access to clinical and corporate systems; and developing a new trust intranet to act as a digital hub for staff. Looking to the future, it shares a planned focus on digital training and education, with an aim to support the rollout of clinical system upgrades and new investments.

Looking to digital infrastructure and estate, a range of projects are shared including replacing 50 percent of desktop services across the estate to provide greater memory and processing capacity; rolling out mobile phone signal boosters across identified community sites; supporting the creation of digitally enabled community diagnostic centre estate; and upgrading data filters to provide a more secure basis for internal and external traffic with regards to cyber security. By 2025, the trust aims to have refreshed their core IT network to ensure adequate bandwidth.

When it comes to digital governance, the strategy shares that there should be six monthly reviews of digital objectives in line with ongoing organisational, clinical and operational changes, along with an annual review of digital maturity assessment following UK guidelines and HIMSS global standards.

The NHS Digital prioritisation matrix for digital investment should be adopted to support the reviews, and the trust should be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the ‘What good looks like’ and ‘Who pays for what?’ guidelines from NHS England Transformation Directorate.

In addition, it notes that there should be “more joined up digital investment correlation between BFT/primary care/council services to establish a Bolton Technology and Analytics framework model”.

To read the strategy in full, please click here.