Life on an NHS IMAS Assignment

The broad scope of the assignment was agreed as three days per week for three months in order to:

  • Review and revise RTT business rules
  • Lead the Planning and Information department through a difficult period of transition and restructure.

After a further, more-detailed, scoping meeting with the Chief Operating Officer – also new in post – I set to work holding 1:1 meetings with senior staff to better understand the dynamics of the department and current priorities; this also formed the basis of the departmental work-plan for the coming months.  As the scale of the challenges ahead became apparent over the first week or two I soon learned that the anticipation that the assignment would be limited to the relatively-narrow areas of RTT and cancer was not realistic and three days per week is not as long as it sounds!

My over-arching goal throughout the assignment, beyond the specific, discreet areas covered by the original scope, was to bridge the gap between Information and Operations: to build trust and understanding between the two groups and move the conversation on from ‘is this information real?’ to ‘what are we going to do about it?’.

In terms of elective care the clear organisational priority lay in the identification and management of long-waiting patients awaiting both admitted care and other treatments so within our team the focus was on producing robust, timely information to support this aim and the recently re-launched elective Patient Tracking List (PTL) meeting.  Improvements in the accuracy and presentation of these reports, coupled with the attendance of a dedicated Senior Analyst at the weekly meetings, really reaped rewards.

Much of the other work started during my assignment was more behind the scenes ‘techie’ stuff.  In terms of the identification and understanding of patient pathways there has been a total refresh and change of approach in terms of information processing; this is starting to shift the emphasis away from expecting users to understand the world of NHS information standards and towards asking questions and providing answers in language which can be related to core Trust business.  

For the first time a reporting model for elective care was developed to form the basis for all new reports in a self-service format for operational staff and managers and the process of migration of existing reports and information has begun.  This has set the Trust on the path to having one view of elective care and should give staff and managers the tools they need to deliver real improvements in patient care.

The initial aims of the assignment were met, including a more responsive department aligned to the new Trust structure, trusted PTL reports helping the delivery of shorter waits to patients and much-improved relationships and working between Information and Operational staff. It was a little disappointing, though, not to be able to see the turn-around of the information and reporting service to the end, but I am well aware that this will take far more time than the three months of my assignment and I like to feel that I have left the foundations for a stronger, more dynamic and valued service.  

It was interesting in the context of my work for the IST to suddenly find myself ‘on the other side of the desk’ and this assignment proved a welcome reminder of the daily, often-conflicting pressures faced by staff working within modern NHS provider organisations.