With over 4,000 employees, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) is one of the largest in the country, serving over a million people spread across 172 square miles. It is also a Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) trust, setting the pace in using technology to improve healthcare delivery. It has a duty to inspire and guide other trusts in their own innovation.
The NHS has tasked the Trust with digitising inpatient monitoring in a project that will serve as a reference for other NHS Trusts.
The Trust had historically monitored inpatients manually using paper-based documents. The Trust’s digital system, developed in-house, prompts healthcare staff to check on patients and enter their status into mobile devices.
Choosing those mobile devices takes careful consideration. As a mental health trust, its service users present with significantly different needs to Acute and Community Trusts.
“Our wards are different to clinical wards in an acute trust,” explains the Trust’s Head of Procurement Linda McManus, adding that products must meet rigorous standards to prevent service users harming themselves. “It’s about recognising the different requirements of the mental health and ensuring that the product is appropriate.”
Probrand trialled 96 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 devices on the Trust’s wards beginning in November 2017. After some breakages, it realised that it needed a more robust device and found the device’s rugged sibling, the Tab Active 2.
The Trust moved the existing Tab 2 devices into other administrative areas and instead used the new units on the ward, ordering 125 Tab Active 2 devices in March 2018. It was so impressed that it purchased 450 devices in total during the following year.
Linda explains "The big win was more efficient reporting on patient status, which has a direct effect on patient care. With a paper-based system, a nurse who missed an observation may not pick this up until the next set were due. This could mean missing when a drug regime isn’t working as effectively as anticipated.
"With the Samsung devices, people are electronically able to run reports to make sure they've completed all service users’ observations."
“Another significant benefit for the Samsung project was a reduction in paper," explains Linda. By using digital devices, the Trust eliminated paper-based reporting on its wards, instead moving everything to a digital system.
Linda was impressed with Probrand’s professionalism in sourcing and supplying the products that it prompted her to contact Probrand for support with a sensitive procurement problem.
As a GDE, the Trust supports must guide and assist other trusts in implementing digital solutions. In October 2018, a procurement department at a partner Trust sought advice and support from BSMHFT regarding their IT refurbishment plan. They wanted to learn lessons from BSMHFT to facilitate the purchase of new laptops. IT had specified high-end laptops with touchscreens, but the procurement team had CIPS targets that made it difficult to justify the purchase of those devices.
Linda asked her account manager at Probrand to visit the partner Trust, to listen to their concerns and support the development of an alternative specification that was cost-effective and could be accessed compliantly through the Government’s Crown Commercial Services (CCS) framework.
Probrand suggested that the teams use two laptop specifications instead of one, to serve different kinds of user and reduce the overall cost. They helped the teams navigate this more complex purchase using the CSS Technology Products 2 (TP2) voluntary technology procurement framework. TP2 defines tendering best practices to help public sector organisations save time and money when purchasing technology products.
To date, the partner Trust has purchased 500 machines through Probrand using the CCS framework while meeting its budgetary and technology requirements.
Probrand’s mature and practical problem-solving approach not only supported the Trust’s mission as a GDE but also strengthened its relationship with its partner Trust. The two trusts’ procurement departments have since worked collaboratively on further tenders, using economies of scale to assist in support ongoing efficiencies.
Probrand’s understanding of technology and procurement are not the only reason it keeps winning business with the Trust. Linda cites its commitment to providing social value in the local community as another significant factor.
The company’s commitment is valued by BSMFT. The Trust has developed a policy with Birmingham City Council and other partners to include evaluation of suppliers with a social and community focus in the tendering process.
“There is a strategic aim at Proband to reinvest in the social value of the community,” says Linda.
Long-term compliant partnerships are important in a rapidly evolving and complex environment like public sector healthcare. By working with a supplier that understands both the technical and the commercial requirements of national guidance, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has nurtured a valuable partner in its mission to excel in healthcare technology.