Having spent longer than I care to admit working in Public Sector Security, one of the things I have noticed is that the pace of change has increased over the last few years. As soon as you have worked out what is going on in one area, they go and change another. I will admit that one of the areas I struggle with most is the NHS. I’ve spent time working with colleagues in the NHS, and had some enjoyable projects to work on. But right now it’s all change in this sector, and in my experience, rather than feign knowledge, the best thing to do is to ask.
So I wandered down to the desk of Jonathan Lee here at Sophos, who has been the Healthcare Sector Manager for 13 years. Immediately you should have two reactions: 1. Wow, a sales person who has been in the same role for 13 years and 2. Extra Wow with cream, a sales person that has been working in the NHS sector for 13 years. One immediately has a vision of either a tired-looking chap with a nervous tic like the Chief Inspector from the Pink Panther films OR someone who is calm and well-read. I know I secretly hoped for the former when I first met him, but Jonathan is irritatingly relaxed and frankly, something of a legend in the industry.
I asked him what ON EARTH is about to happen in the NHS. He told me the following:
“We live in interesting times in the NHS. Trusts in England are under increasing pressure to become ever more efficient and to do more with fewer staff and resources. The Comprehensive Spending Review may not have appeared to have hit the NHS in the way that other areas of the public sector were. However, the focus is on maintaining front-line care and not back-office functions that are required to keep the front-line in a position where healthcare can still be delivered.
Trusts were already looking to save money by consolidating the number of suppliers that they deal with even before their budgets were put under extra pressure when various agreements were not renewed by Connecting for Health earlier in the year. Furthermore, the government’s ‘Liberating the NHS’ white paper has brought more change along with PCTs and SHAs being phased out. Therefore, we are currently seeing a shake-out as Trusts and shared services compete to provide IT services to the staff formerly employed by the PCTs. The white paper has caused uncertainty over who will be protecting machines and patient data in a primary care setting. Some acute and mental health trusts are bidding to take over IT support for former PCT staff. Others will be joining existing shared services and health informatics services. The new GP consortia will take a variety of approaches when looking for IT support – either buying in expertise from other NHS organisations or from private sector integrators. This change is driving organisations towards reviewing their current solutions.”
My reaction, apart from yet again to admire (and be really quite unreasonably jealous of) his calm, was to focus on the key words here: uncertainty, change and interesting times. Many of you will be aware of the ancient curse ‘may you live in interesting times’, and it appears that right now in the NHS on the ground, matters could not be more ‘interesting’. Change is sometimes good, sometimes bad, but is going to be a constant in the Public Sector and nowhere more so than in the NHS.
IA is going to be a key enabler of change. With those changes comes the question of ownership, and the question of who is responsible for data. It is therefore beholden of those working in Vendorland to help the NHS make the transitions required with a professional approach and a flexible attitude, especially if you are providing wide-scale services (Sophos can count well over 50% of the NHS as customers for example).
The message today? Sit tight, offer pragmatic advice and patience (and possibly tea) and ensure you able to roll with the changes. The NHS is about to experience fundamental changes and we need to act responsibly about it.