Digital health and data across the ICS regions in 2024: North West

So far in our feature series exploring digital and data across the integrated care system regions, we’ve looked at London, MidlandsNorth East and Yorkshire, East of England and the South West. Here, we take a look at the latest developments in the North West region, covering Cheshire and Merseyside, Greater Manchester, and Lancashire and South Cumbria. A year on from our last deep dive into what’s happening with digital and data in the North West, we’d like to take this opportunity to look at what has happened since in terms of news, strategies, and other recent developments in digital and data at a regional level. 

Digital strategies in the North West region

Firstly, let’s take a look at how many of the three ICSs in the North West region have a publicly-available digital strategy.

From our research, the answer is all three!

Cheshire and Merseyside’s current digital and data strategy for 2022-2025 is available here, and highlights the role of digital and data in helping to address challenges in the region, building a vision of having a digitally empowered population, promoting a “digital and data confident and competent workforce”, and building a “secure and reliable intelligence provision”. The strategy also sets out goals including developing a strong digital and data foundation, at-scale digital and data platforms, and system wide digital and data tools and services.

Greater Manchester’s digital strategy, developed with Health Innovation Manchester, covers 2023-2027, with ambitions to deliver integrated, coordinated, and safe care; enabling staff and services to operate efficiently; empowering citizens to manage their health and care needs; understanding population health needs; and accelerating research and innovation into practice. It is based around three core principles: innovate, integrate, and digitise.

Lancashire and South Cumbria’s digital enabling strategy for 2021 to 2026 can be found here, and places a key focus on making digital health information easier to access and share, providing healthcare staff with access to the information and technology they need to deliver “high quality care efficiently”, and making improvements “driven by robust intelligence and insight at every level from ward to board”.


  • Digital strategies 
  • Insights from the North West
  • Interview:  ReStarting with North West Leadership
  • Health tech from the North West: snapshots from the past year
  • Do the ICSs have digital representation on their boards?
  • Progress on virtual wards in the North West

Insights from the North West

As part of our exploration of the current digital and data landscape in the North West region, we reached out to ICSs and trusts for any insights they would like to share about existing projects and priorities for the next six to twelve months.

In a response to this call for comment, West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust shared that their priorities for the coming months include developing the trust’s integrated EPR system to support the delivery of safe and efficient care, aligning digital work with the trust’s acute redevelopment programme as it works towards planning, designing and building its new digital hospital, and continuing to digitally support and empower patients through initiatives such as its patient portal, which has received more than 70,000 sign-ups since its launch in early 2023.

Reflecting on digital projects from the past year, the trust highlights its status as “one of the most advanced robotic centres in Europe”, offering tech that could “soon allow cancer patients to go home within 24 hours of an operation”, as well as reducing post operative hospital stays through less invasive surgical procedures. Recovery in some cases, the trust continues, can be monitored through its virtual hospital, allowing patients to be cared for from the comfort of their own home “using specialist tech and the support of experts, who can track key health metrics remotely or in person when needed”. The trust shared that between April 2023 and February 2024, “in collaboration with West Herts’ delivery partner Central London Community Healthcare Trust, 5,000 patients were treated via the virtual hospital, saving an estimated 4,500 bed days and scoring on average 9/10 on patient experience questionnaires”.

Finally, looking ahead to the next 12 months, West Herts noted that the development of the trust’s Control Centre at Watford General Hospital is increasingly allowing a response in real-time to pressures across the local health and care system, and ensuring that patients are seen quickly “by the most appropriate professional to meet their needs”. Maximising the use of data and digital technology within the design of West Herts hospitals is also a key consideration of the acute hospital redevelopment programme.

We recently sat down with Kate Warriner, chief digital and transformation officer at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Trust and chief digital and information officer at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, who shared insights on current projects and digital priorities across both organisations. Kate highlighted that Liverpool Heart and Chest has recently achieved HIMMS Level 7, following the same achievement at Alder Hey three years ago, saying, “there were some fantastic things that came out of that with some of the technologies that we put in place, particularly from a safety point of view; and also on how we use our data in terms of looking at our services and looking at how we can improve”. She also noted the development of the healthy lung project around the early detection of lung cancer, with technology “playing a big part”. For Alder Hey, Kate also discussed achievements including a “major overhaul” of the trust’s EPR and the refresh of the trust’s strategy, with a roadmap to 2030, saying, “digital and technology cuts through all of that like a stick of rock”.

Around digital priorities for the next 12 months, Kate highlighted the importance of ensuring that the basics remain in place whilst also pushing forward with the technology agenda, in terms of new developments such as generative AI, saying, “we’re excited about some of the possibilities that can help with transforming some of the services that we are delivering in both organisations”. She also shared that data will be a big focus for the next 12 months at both organisations, building on existing capabilities in terms of things like Power BI and real-time dashboards to enable staff to see key performance metrics such as the number of patients waiting, adding, “we want to see how we can make the most of our data, using it even more than we already do, not only to give us insights into operational service delivery, but also to take our services into the future”.

We also spoke to Natalie Hayes, CNIO at Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, about digital projects, priorities, and challenges. Natalie discussed how much of her role for the last 12 months has been around aligning systems following a recent merge, the roll-out of the Narrative document management system across three of the trust’s five sites, and the ongoing procurement of a new EPR system. She also noted the trust’s upcoming digital strategy, which focuses on user-centred design, and the development of a new patient portal.

For the upcoming 12 months, Natalie shared how she and her team will be focusing on ensuring that all sites are digitally aligned, as although they are currently using the same supplier, System C, they are “currently at different levels of digital maturity, and using the systems in different ways”. The trust will also be launching a new digital strategy with a key focus on levelling up digital maturity on an equal basis across all trust sites. Natalie said, “we need to establish a safe clinical safety process – something that was in place at one of the legacy sites, but not the other. I have been lucky enough to set this up from scratch at one organisation and look forward to doing it again, making sure that clinical safety is all documented and that both the structure and governance is in place.”

Interview:  ReStarting with North West Leadership

In February this year former Director at EMIS and Alcidion, Lynette Ousby accepted the role of CEO at ReStart.  Lynette was born and raised in the North West and akin to many women in digital health, she is not one for self-promotion! A cursory glance through Lynette’s Linkedin Recommendations however, gives a delightful insight into the energy, authenticity and credibility of her work and values. 

Impact and purpose

Lynette shares her rationale for the move to ReStart, “I think for anyone working in health and care we like the idea that we’re making an impact in some way.  During my 15 years in the industry, it became clear that any software product is only as useful as the data contained within it. I’ve seen first hand how some suppliers don’t always unlock data to make it available for clinicians – it’s not that they won’t do it, more they can’t do it. It was a conscious decision that my next role would do something to help fix this – to use innovative ways to unlock data and be able to move it around – anyway here I am!” 

A proud workforce

Like Lynette, ReStart has been somewhat under the radar in making an impact in health and care. Established 20 years ago by Mike Symers, the company has amassed a highly skilled and loyal workforce of over 30 full-time technical staff, spread across the UK. ReStart staff are often embedded within NHS Trust technical teams to support a myriad of interoperability and data migration challenges.

Lynette checks in regularly, both in person and remotely, with her specialist team, “The memory bank amassed over the last 20 years by our team definitely sets us apart. We’ve helped so many Trusts with data projects during really challenging times; be it Covid, EPR deployments, Trust integration replacements, shared care record initiatives. Our workforce has seen the evolution of software and systems; our constant has been the ability to react to this changing environment and it is this knowledge that drives our ability to adapt quickly to any data challenge”.

Resetting the strategy 

After a review of the business, ReStart now has a clear 3 pillar strategy: 

  1. Remain the no.1 provider of integration and interoperability to the NHS. Agnostic to software providers gives a ‘trusted advisor’ status by both NHS customers and third-party suppliers.
  2. Continue to innovate managing data. ReStart has an ear to the ground on the latest standards, national NHS demands, as well as local needs. The IMX platform, designed to ‘consume’ data and make it useful, can mass monitor 100’s of data points whilst raising alerts of data issues. The platform can also be used to replicate an EPR or PAS, providing a mini health record in the event of system failure or a new deployment.
  3. Provide the highest level of support to the NHS. Over 50% of NHS Trusts in England have selected ReStart to deliver some level of support for data integration. With 24/7 support to over 20% of NHS Trusts, ReStart is tailoring a range of services to support care providers irrespective of the amount of data they have, where the data resides and the bandwidth of internal IT resource.

Lynette continues, “With ReStart the opportunity to make a difference lies at the heart of the data. Not just making it available for clinicians at the point of care, but ensuring it’s joined up and ensuring it can be used appropriately for ongoing research. We go to great lengths to monitor the movement and security of data and assist in making it accessible to the right people at the right time.”

To the North West and beyond

Lynette is proud of her roots and continues to live in Burnley with her husband and three children. Home to Burnley FC in the Community, an award-winning charity of Burnley Football Club, ReStart selected to partner with them and support a wide range of initiatives across the country such as education in deprived schools, food banks, veteran programs and dementia care.

Part of the rationale for selecting Burnley FC’s charity was their reach.  As part of the national football league, they can work with other areas of the country on charitable endeavours – sharing successes and delivering local projects where similar support is invaluable.

Lynette concludes, “We wanted to work with a charity that could genuinely help empower communities. The partnership works as it allows our staff to volunteer to work in any location and get involved in their own local community projects. We’ve recently been heavily involved in a STEM education programme – it was an uplifting experience to go into a local school in my area and help share my knowledge about the technology landscape and the incredible opportunities in digital health that the North West can offer now and in the future”.


ReStart delivers integration and data migration projects to health and care; supporting a wide range of systems including Rhapsody, Ensemble and Health Connect integration engines. The company has vast experience in developing data interfaces with suppliers such as Cerner, Lorenzo, McKesson, IPM, Epic, CaMIS and System C.  ReStart has worked with 49% of NHS Trusts, providing 24/7 integration support to 20% of Trusts and is currently working in over 50% of ICS’s.

Learn more about ReStart here.

Health tech from the North West: snapshots from the past year

Let’s take a look at some of the news and updates from ICSs and trusts across the North West over the last year.

In Cheshire and Merseyside, the ICS recently launched a tender for a new telehealth platform, with the aim of procuring a flexible system capable of connecting with “more existing and future applications and hardware – such as novel remote monitoring equipment or consumer devices that haven’t yet been adopted or even brought to market”.

The publication of the ICSs Access Improvement Plan also highlighted the role of digital and technology in improving access to healthcare, with expected improvements for patients including “less hurdles and clear information” when accessing services, set times for online consultations, a choice of appointment methods, and a better understanding of the apps and technologies in place for those choosing to use it.

In news from some of Cheshire and Merseyside’s trusts, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre launched its new digital strategy, emphasising digital foundations, patient and staff empowerment, and better use of data;  and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital achieved HIMSS EMRAM (Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model) Stage 7.

From Greater Manchester ICS, a new five-year plan designed to improve access to primary care services highlighted digital as an enabler with key aims around reducing variation in the deployment of digital tools, improving inclusion, training the workforce, and putting in place appropriate hardware/software and infrastructure.

Health Innovation Manchester also published The Greater Manchester Health and Care Digital Transformation Strategy on behalf of Greater Manchester NHS and social care partners, highlighting five key ambitions to deliver integrated, coordinated care; enable efficient and productive working; empower citizens; understand and act upon population health needs; and accelerate research and innovation into practice.

And from Greater Manchester’s trusts, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust welcomed a new chief digital & information officer (CDIO), David Walliker, celebrated one year of its electronic patient record, Hive, and announced the launch of a new online patient portal and mobile app, MyMFT.

In June of 2023, we spoke with Lorna Allan, chief digital and information officer at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, who shared some insight on the development of the trust’s digital strategy and developing the digital workforce. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust also collaborated with tech provider CDW on the implementation of a number of digital systems as part of an 18-month transformation programme designed to support the trust with digital skills and equipment.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, the ICS opened a £1 million tender for digital mental health support for young people in October, and a pilot programme with clinicians from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust combined AI and teledermoscopy, with the aim of diagnosing and treating people with skin cancer earlier. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust also announced the go-live of its electronic patient record system, eLancs, designed to improve patient care by replacing paper-based notes and records with digital tools, including introducing a new electronic patient record system across its hospitals.

Progress on virtual wards in the North West

Next, let’s take a look at the latest virtual wards data for the North West region, using the data released on a monthly basis from NHS England, to find out how each of the ICSs is performing in this space.

According to the most recent figures from April 2024, the ICS with the highest current virtual ward capacity per 100,000 members of GP-registered population aged 16 or over, is Greater Manchester ICS, with 26 percent. Lancashire and South Cumbria reports a rate of 22.8 percent, whilst Cheshire and Merseyside’s rate is 16.7 percent.

In terms of occupancy, Greater Manchester comes out on top again with a 71.7 percent occupancy rate, followed by Lancashire and South Cumbria with 50.8 percent, and Cheshire and Merseyside with 40.8 percent.

Click here to access the statistics on NHSE’s website.

Do ICSs in the North West have digital representation on their boards?

We set out to find out more about the make-up of the North West ICSs, using publicly available information to see which ICS boards currently have digital representation.

Whilst it’s worth pointing out that some members of the board may have digital backgrounds or skillsets not mentioned on ICS websites, from our research it appears that all three ICSs from the North West region currently have digital representation on their board.

For Cheshire and Merseyside ICB, John Llewellyn offers digital representation as corporate director and chief digital officer; whilst Asim Patel, chief digital officer, is a regular participant on the board of Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS; and Warren Heppolette, chief officer for strategy and innovation, represents digital interests for Greater Manchester ICS.