What’s happening in digital and data across the North West?

Next up in our feature series exploring digital and data across the different ICS regions, we’re looking to the North West with its three integrated care systems: Cheshire and Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Although the North West region includes the lowest number of ICSs, there’s plenty happening across the 32 NHS trusts included in its remit.

Cheshire and Merseyside

To begin, let’s take a look at the digital and data strategy from Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership.

The document shares that the system has a previous digital strategy called Digit@ll from 2018, developed before the ICS arrangements came into place. This “proved to be a key driver for investment in core IT systems and underpinning IT infrastructure to support health and care delivery”; however, there has been “significant change in the use of digital solutions since 2018, most notably because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The vision laid out in the strategy is for the ICS to have a digitally empowered population, with a digitally confident and competent workforce. In addition, they aim to have secure and reliable intelligence provision in place.

In line with this, a key goal is to deliver “seamless and secure digital and data infrastructure and associated support services, fundamental care records solutions and integrated data sets” across the region. As part of this, the ICS shares a number of planned actions relating to levelling up the digital, data and intelligence infrastructure, and levelling up safe practice. These actions include ensuring that all healthcare workers have access to the digital equipment that they need to fulfil their role, and by March 2025 they will have access to “reliable, seamless and secure network infrastructure” wherever they are working. On population health management, linked datasets available for analytics are to be broadened by March 2025. The ICS will also be focusing on cyber security, pledging to ensure data quality to establish a common approach for improvement in data quality across the ICS.

Another goal is to achieve digital and data platforms at scale; the ICS aims to provide core solutions which are mainstreamed and embedded in service delivery and planning at all levels, including platforms for shared care records, remote care, intelligence delivery and patient empowerment. The ICS states that it will continue to provide a systemwide platform for sharing care documentation and structured care records across the whole system, with shared care records to be available for all healthcare workers by March 2024. They also pledge to ensure that all providers have implemented a patient-empowered portal that integrates with the NHS App by 2025. On remote care, the ICS notes its plan to expand their virtual ward offering and continue long-term condition monitoring for particular specialities. With regards to intelligence delivery platforms, the ICS shares that it has been recently working on the development of their Combined Intelligence for Population Health Action (CIPHA) platform, to include further population health management reporting that enables identification, segmentation and evaluation of cohorts for the targeting of interventions.

The final goal is to achieve system-wide digital and data tools and services, which build on the core platforms and directly support the delivery of ICS health and care objectives. Solutions for population health management and business intelligence are included as part of this, along with solutions and apps that meet the specific needs of particular population groups. Here, existing work has been to implement ICS-wide capacity and demand deporting in urgent care and elective care, with further development set for 2023/24. They will also implement a Trusted Research Environment on CIPHA by March 2025 so that their data can be mobilised for research and innovation by partner organisations, along with implementing a single, mature performance information system for all partners by March 2024.

Underpinning this, the ICS highlights their mechanisms for change: their transformation programmes; robust governance, leadership and management; partnerships; and innovation along with future proofing.

Cheshire and Merseyside has also built a number of ‘critical success factors’ into its digital strategy, including a focus on increasing digital inclusion; work on developing and retaining a skilled workforce; ensuring sustainable financial investment; and commitment towards net zero targets.

In the long-term, Cheshire and Merseyside aims to become “the most digitally advanced and data-driven ICS in England by 2025”.

HTN has recently covered other digital strategies from within the ICS’s remit; The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust recently shared its first innovation strategy to outline plans to develop their ways of working, and Alder Hey Innovation shared their own innovation strategy which focuses on addressing healthcare challenges faced by children and young people. We’ve covered lots of digital news from Alder Hey in recent months, such as their launch of AlderHey@anywhere, an interactive and immersive digital health platform, and their work to create a digital twin hospital to support children undergoing treatment.

Last summer, we spoke to Chris Mason, CIO at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Chris shared some of the digital projects underway in his organisation. He shared how they were in the process of “implementing a new PACS (Picture Archiving Communications System). This will mean that we are aligned with our partners across Cheshire and Merseyside ICS, which will give us more strength as a region.” Other projects included optimising their EPR, replacing their wired network to ensure that infrastructure is resilient and robust, working on robotic process automation to help streamline processes for corporate services, designing a data warehouse and implementing a learning management system to support the training of clinical and operational staff.

In addition, Chris said: “There are some exciting new ventures in the ICS in terms of the Cheshire and Merseyside Surgical Centre. There’s a lot of infrastructure work and a lot of system design that needs to be in place to ensure that everything runs smoothly. We have a similar programme of work focused on updating our urgent and emergency care – we’re bringing a lot of local services under one roof”.

In other news, last week we heard how a hospital in Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust introduced an AI-supported CT scanning facility to “deliver sharp, clear and distinct images at speed”, with 2,000 scans delivered in nine months; in March, we learned how the ICS is transforming their elective waiting list into a preparation list through data management and AI algorithms.


  • Cheshire and Merseyside
  • Greater Manchester
  • Case Study: Unify your workforce to improve care across the North West
  • Lancashire and South Cumbria 

Greater Manchester

Moving on to explore digital in Greater Manchester, firstly let’s look at the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership Strategy.

The strategy sets an ambition for Greater Manchester to be a “world-leading digital city-region” and goes on to highlight the role of digital in a number of key areas, firstly acknowledging the part it can play in resolving current financial challenges with regards to the workforce crisis. The ICS notes that digital advancements must be embraced in order to ease pressures.

On providing proactive and preventative integrated care through the neighbourhood model, the ICS states: “Our digital transformation plans are key to connecting and improving this aspect of the model through improved data availability, particularly for community services, ensuring those at highest risk are identified and supported appropriately, and the expansion of remote monitoring and virtual wards.” They share that they are continuing to enhance the Greater Manchester Care Record and its use for direct case, secondary uses and research.

Moving on to look at health innovation and spread, Greater Manchester ICS shares an aim to reduce the time from discovery of innovation to spread by connecting the healthcare system with academia and industry, to better equip them to respond to healthcare challenges. The ICS will also be “developing our approaches to unlock the full potential of our digital and data assets” with the aim of supporting redesign and transformation of services.

Other aims in this area include bringing in new technologies to transform how people engage with services digitally, and using data to provide more accurate and effective care and treatment. The ICS plans to harness the power of data and technology to “digitally reimagine services to fully support the integration of care, empower people to take greater control of their health and wellbeing and accelerate innovation into practice.” Technology is also to be used to help people receive care based on the most accurate information as and when they need it, and to support people in self-management.

Looking at data uses, the strategy notes plans to analyse de-identified personal data to better review and plan services. Data is also to be used to tackle inequalities; the ICS says that it is “committed to utilising the intelligence generated to give us a better understanding of inequality across the city-region, in terms of both spatial and demographic variation. We also want to understand how outcomes vary for our diverse communities, including variance by age, sex, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and trans status, and religious affiliation.” They are currently developing the Greater Manchester Health and Care Intelligence Hub is key to this, building on the Greater Manchester Digital Platform. The strategy explains: “The hub is a web-based portal that is being co-designed to bring together data, community insight, web-based tools, guidance, shared learning and workforce development resources to support people working in health and care to better understand health inequalities and variation in care in their areas and implement models of care.”

With regards to research, the ICS pledges to support insights into new cures and treatments, to “significantly grow” their activity in community-based research, and tackle local problems through Health Innovation Manchester with a view to develop and deploy proven innovation at scale.

A key mission shared by the ICS focuses on digital inclusion, with the strategy sharing plans to “equip people with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online, partnering with the Digital Inclusion Action Network.” Specifically, this work is to focus on under 25s, over 75s and people with disabilities.

So what are some of the digital projects and programmes taking place in this region? In March, we covered how health and care partners in Greater Manchester have collaborated with industry and academia to secure a multi-million pound health innovation accelerator; the accelerator aims to “rapidly improve the treatment and diagnosis of diseases across the 2.8m GM population” and is set to fund projects focusing on liver disease, heart failure, lung cancer screening, chest pain and community diagnostics.

In March, NHS England shared a range of case studies focusing on innovative work across the country. Greater Manchester ICS was highlighted for its work with Health Innovation Manchester, through which Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network, National Institute for Health and Care Applied Research Collaboration, Academic Health Science Centre and GM Digital Transformation Office have been combined into one integrated delivery organisation. So far, Health Innovation Manchester has delivered a number of successful projects, including a project to digitally transform the heart failure pathway using data from implantable devices; a programme to eliminate Hepatitis C through rapid point of care testing and curative treatments; the deployment of specialist clinics across maternity units to support complex pregnancies; and a study to test novel cholesterol-lowering medicines in primary care, enabled by digital cohort finding and outcome monitoring.

Other news includes a strategic partnership set to accelerate Greater Manchester’s capacity to detect and diagnose health conditions disproportionately affecting the city’s population; the trial of a smartphone app capable of predicting if an individual will relapse into psychosis; and the launch of a social robot designed to support young people with complex educational needs with their communication and confidence levels.

Case Study: Unify your workforce to improve care across the North West

The North West presents a unique set of workforce challenges for ICSs due to its large geographic distribution. Leaders need a simpler way to understand how and where staff are working that allows them to make decisions in the interests of optimal patient care.

The issue becomes starker when you compare urban city centres and surrounding rural areas. Lantum is designed to build a workforce with greater resilience that actively encourages professionals to take up shifts in more isolated rural areas.

Understanding how to deliver local service at scale

When the goal is a more resilient workforce, flexibility is essential.

Flexible working means investing in tools and tech that allow staff to do their jobs well, including digital flexible staff pools that support new models of care and system-wide flexible shifts.

Flexible staff pools enable ICSs to implement digital passports and remove friction around competency and training requirements. “It’s a way for clinicians to get more control over where and when they work, which motivates them more,” says Melissa Morris, CEO and founder of Lantum.

Offering flexible work opportunities allows professionals to explore new hybrid ways of working across ICSs and can improve morale and job satisfaction. Leaders have the ability to see at a glance how staff move back and forth between rural and urban settings. They can then adjust offerings accordingly to strike the right balance.

“Staff pools offer opportunities to the workforce, so you always have a clinical safety net at times of high demand, including winter pressures,” says Mary Jackson, Head of ICS Partnerships at Lantum.

“With the challenges the NHS is facing at the moment, there are long-term benefits to leaning into an initiative like flexible staff pools born out of the difficulty with vaccination organising,” she says. “It’s absolutely critical to have more flexibility around when and how staff can work.”

Focusing on local results with Lantum

Lantum is proud to partner with Central Lancashire ICS and West Yorkshire ICS. Leeds GP Federation is a key part of West Yorkshire ICS and has worked closely with Lantum since the beginning of 2022.

Within the first few months of using Lantum, 358 staff at Leeds GP Federation were onboarded across 16 staff types. Four new staff types were also created specifically for Leeds GP Confederation, showing the flexibility the Lantum platform can provide.

After four months, 80% of the staff’s clinical governance documentation was uploaded on Lantum. Combined with the deployment of bulk texting, this allowed leaders to quickly redirect resources and share information at scale. When you consider that Leeds GP Federation consists of more than 90 GP practices, this is a positive result for leaders working across diverse settings.

Learn more about Lantum’s work with with Leeds GP Federation.

Enhancing flexible staffing across the region

Lantum is designed to be a flexible staff bank that powers a more resilient approach to patient care. Lantum shows leaders how staff are being used on a daily basis and gives workers greater mobility across organisations.

Lantum’s Connected SchedulingTM platform  is a comprehensive approach that provides functionality at scale and a full-service workforce solution for healthcare organisations in the North West.

Rota management and clinical governance can be overseen from a central platform, making strategic choices far quicker than any other solution. The end result is a broader, more resilient workforce ready to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the patients in their area.

By giving staff the ability to see shifts that exist beyond their traditional workplace, Lantum gives professionals a higher level of autonomy over their careers. This boosts morale, improves engagement and helps increase staff retention.

Leaders also gain greater insights into what their workforce is doing and which opportunities they are keen to pursue in the future. This is essential for a cohesive and motivated workforce ready to meet the unique challenges in the North West.

Lantum solves issues across different settings

The density of patients and demand for shifts in Central Manchester is dramatically different to those in the surrounding rural areas. The issue leaders face is that a single workforce needs to be able to seamlessly adapt to the needs of both.

Lantum supports ICSs in the area with:

  • Centralised clinical governance so staff can work across organisations
  • Perks for staff like next-business-day pay with Lantum’s Rocketpay feature
  • Full visibility over available shifts across the region in a variety of clinical settings
  • Automated invoices, pensions and paperwork to reduce the admin burden

Lantum’s award-winning Connected SchedulingTM approach boosts engagement, morale and staff retention all at the same time. It allows leaders like you to see how and where your staff are working at a glance, which is crucial to ensure your ICS can adapt to new pressures.

Lantum currently works with 18 ICSs, 300+ PCNs and 1-in-2 GP practices across England to connect healthcare leaders with their workforce.

To learn more about how Lantum delivers ICS solutions across the North West, click here.

Lancashire and South Cumbria

Last but not least, there’s Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS’s digital strategy, where five inter-connected themes are highlighted. ‘Creating the future’ is one such theme, along with integrating services, managing the system more effectively and empowering the frontline. These themes tie into an ICS’s overarching focus on empowering the person.

Creating the future means supporting people to innovate, the strategy clarifies, “creating space and time to tackle common problems and share good practice.” The ICS pledges to connect people with specialist resources, including the wider industry and academic partners, in order to drive transformation. The strategy also lays out their commitment to consider the potential of new technologies in future planning, to use the best available data to drive continuous improvement, and to “build a reputation for innovation in technology to attract the workforce of the future.”

With regards to integration, Lancashire and South Cumbria share plans to “adopt a unified approach, doing things at scale and building on what already works well. We will share data rather than duplicating it, to support care for individuals, neighbourhoods and the whole population whilst always respecting people’s right to privacy.” The ICS plans to continue developments around their shared care record, with focus on using data to predict and prevent disease, and also intend to access and process data as soon as it is recorded to ensure effective management of resources and support future planning.

Looking at managing the system more effectively, the ICS states its aim to “get the basics right to ensure our systems are universally capable and secure from cyber-attack.” They intend to have a single approach to information governance, and for component organisations to work together to reduce complexity, duplication and costs, “using our collective buying power to get the best value for tax payers.” Another key part of this work will see the ICS focus on standardisation and redesign of digital systems to release more time for care delivery and safety improvements.

On the topic of delivering care, Lancashire and South Cumbria’s strategy emphasises the need for staff to feel confident and enthusiastic when it comes to new digital solutions to help empower people to self-manage their health. Staff should be able to support people in doing this, and assist them in coordinating care and sharing experiences through the care record. The ICS notes that staff must be given time to innovate and develop their skills as part of this, in addition to ensuring access to the information necessary for them to do their jobs. Focus is also placed on data collection, with the strategy highlighting that it should be “a fundamental part” of a staff member’s role.

Finally, with regards to empowering the person, the ICS pledges people will be able to access and add to their own electronic health record; they will have access to good quality information to support their own decision-making; and when they need services and support, there will be a range of options available for them to access remotely from any location. The individual will also be able to use digital tools to help them make changes to their lifestyle and monitor the impact of those changes, and they will be confident that their data is stored securely and only shared when relevant and necessary.

Last year, HTN spoke with Professor Anthony Rowbottom, clinical director for Lancashire and South Cumbria’s pathology service. Anthony shared his thoughts on the future of the ICS: “Technology is going to be front and centre. We’re seeing it in the world around us through the use of applications, the use of wearables, et cetera, and I can only see that expanding.”

He added that data managing and reporting are also a “vital” focus area for ICSs. “Data is key. In our department, we gather around 80 million parts of data throughout the year – a significant proportion. Quite often we use it to look back retrospectively – to understand what’s happened to the service and how much money we’ve spent. We need to move from that retrospective performance analysis to a more prospective description, and towards information gathering around what the needs of the service are. Our aim is to leverage the combined information gathered from healthcare, social care and economics for patients. We know that all of those have a significant impact on outcomes, so I would really like us to get to a position where a clinician is sitting in front of a patient and they’re having an informed discussion about their care based on important, aggregated, real-time data.”

In addition to this, Anthony raised the importance of population health management. “Gathering and connecting data from across communities can make a huge impact,” he said. “Take, for example, areas like microbial resistance management. We use a lot of antibiotics across the ICS, but we don’t really have a heat-map of who is using what and where… so we’re not able to fully understand how we deploy particular antibiotics and what their reaction might be in particular communities.

“There’s also risk stratification – whilst we might all have similar DNA, we know that environmental factors imprint on outcome. By being able to use data to ‘drill down’ to an individual, perhaps by using their DNA sequence or mutational analysis, we may be able to create a risk stratification for that individual, which helps them to understand their disease, lifestyle and any environmental changes or potential treatments.”

On the topic of the ICS’s pathology services, last year we heard how a new Laboratory Information Management System was deployed across all NHS pathology services in Lancashire and South Cumbria. Anthony commented that the implementation “really takes us to the next level of technological advancement and will support our future aspirations for utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence.  It will also support the transition that we are planning to near-patient testing and future wearable technology.”

With regards to other digital projects and programmes from across the region, earlier this year Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Fylde Coast Medical Services announced that they were working alongside a remote monitoring tech supplier to implement a solution capable of providing a direct link between patients awaiting cardiac surgery and a team of clinicians. The aim of the initiative is to deliver a digitally-enabled cardiac surgical waiting list, in the hopes of reducing demand on primary and secondary care. The team will also be able to identify patients from the list who are deteriorating and offer earlier interventions if needed. Joe McGuigan, senior digital lead at the ICB, said: “Hopefully we can take the good practice and learning from this programme – which has been a real team effort – into other areas across Lancashire and South Cumbria, so care can be delivered in the most appropriate place for patients.”

Last year we also heard about chatbox technology being deployed across the region to help tackle elective care waiting lists, with the bot guiding patients through a series of questions to establish if their condition has changed, if they require treatment sooner, or if they no longer require an appointment.