Experience on NHS IMAS assignments

NHS IMAS pool member, Keith Dibble, tells us about his experience of the various NHS IMAS assignments he's undertaken and shares the learning from these assignments.

Keith Dibble

I started my role as Electronic Patient Record (EPR) Programme Director at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, having completed a Patient Administration Review assignment in the same organisation.

The common theme of service transformation meant the move from one assignment to the next was logical and almost seamless, although on paper, the remit for each was very different.  The former focussed on the supporting infrastructure required to ensure that clinical services ran efficiently and effectively, both for the staff (medical, nursing) and more importantly the patients.  By contrast, this role is to lead the delivery of the first phase of an EPR Programme, and the implementation of a new Patient Administrative System (PAS) and accompanying Information Technology (IT).

Long term success and sustainability

The technical changes are by far (I hope my IT colleagues will forgive me!) the more simple aspects of the programme, whereas the transformational and engagement agendas are key to the longer term success and sustainability.

As an Operations Director by background, I have only a superficial understanding of technology. Indeed, many of my colleagues refer to me (affectionately I hope!) as DT or Dumb Terminal!  The serious point behind this is that the Trust wanted someone with a senior operational background to drive this key work from a service delivery point of view, not technical change.

I have learnt a new, technical, language, and in doing so have sought to translate it into lay terminology. A key part of this process is working with front-line staff from all areas, in order to deliver organisational change right across the Trust.

Enabling progress

The support from the Executive Directors, and the Non-Executives is crucial, and I was very lucky in that I was given open access to the decision-making structures of the Trust.  This made implementation a little easier, as access to prompt decision making allowed progress to be made at pace.

I have found working as an interim to be rewarding, as it gives access to a range of organisations, as well as being separate from some of the internal politics.  However, one of the challenges can be the ability to influence staff and therefore change, when your role is temporary.  Apart from the key objectives of the assignment previously referred to, an exit strategy is key to make the transformational approach both meaningful and sustainable.  My personal experience is that you should start this almost from day one, so that you have confidence that the work you are doing will translate into business as usual.

Agreement to clear objectives

I have worked with NHS IMAS on a number of assignments over the years, and one of the key benefits, in my experience, has been clear agreed objectives for each assignment, including the sustainability aspect.  This holds both myself and the Trust clearly to account.

In terms of ongoing support, it is always useful and comforting to know that advice and support is available from NHS IMAS at the end of a telephone line.

Life on assignment can be tough. You are brought into an organisation to address complex and challenging issues, often because an external view is required, or difficult changes have to be negotiated or probably both.  My current assignment has an extremely tight deadline, and one that is largely non-negotiable, as well as involving a range of challenging conversations right across the Trust.  And I enjoy every minute!

For more Life on Assignment case studies please go to the archive page.