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Crisis averted for NHS Trust in just 48 hours

Gloucestershire NHS Trust minimizes patient impact of the Covid-19 lockdown by enabling 2,000 staff to work from home in just 48 hours using Citrix.

Ensuring business continuity in a crisis like the Covid-19 lockdown is essential, even more so if your “business” is healthcare. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust serves the population of Gloucestershire from two hospitals (Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal) and the Stroud Maternity Unit.

Against the background of a previously unsuccessful IT deployment, new CDIO (Mark Hutchinson) and a newly formed Digital Transformation Team selected Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops to enable anywhere, any device access to its Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system, Allscripts Sunrise.

Working with Citrix Gold Solution Advisor LIMA, the new team set about designing and delivering the new infrastructure.

“Digitally, we were one of the worst hospital trusts for our size in the UK,” says Executive Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO) Mark Hutchinson. “Everything was on paper. Files could go missing for days.”

LIMA’s Mark Howie agrees, “We embarked on a project to centralise IT service provision using Citrix to provide an always on, high performance, highly available service. The goal was to deliver the EPR application to any endpoint device whether that was a laptop used by nurses for end-of-bed care, a PC on a ward, an administrator’s desktop or a clinician working at home. Another key requirement was the ability to scale rapidly and cost-effectively on a project by project basis.”

That last requirement proved fortuitous. Within a couple of months of the Citrix solution being deployed, the Trust (and the country) were faced with the Covid-19 Lockdown.

“The first problem was moving services,” Hutchinson explains. “We had to move patient clinics off the main hospital site, and rapidly transfer as many services as we could to remote delivery. We also had to move as many non-frontline staff as possible out. Those that could work from home had to do so. But that’s easier said than done.”

Many hospitals in the same situation rushed to buy hundreds of laptops to support their remote teams. The Trust went a different route. “We didn’t want to just buy hundreds of expensive laptops that we’d have to set up, distribute to staff who needed them most and then have the challenge of counting them all back in” Hutchinson says. “But we also knew that individual PCs in people’s homes can be difficult to secure and manage, which is critical when we’re working with confidential patient data.”

The team decided to leverage Citrix, dramatically accelerating its longer term plan to deliver a full virtual desktop with clinical apps to all users.

“We said to hospital staff, if you have a device at home, we'll sort the VDI so you can easily access all the Trust systems” Hutchinson recalls.

“Citrix has been a game-changer for our clinicians.”

The Trust’s IT team worked quickly to make all necessary apps available on Citrix.

“Citrix has given us the ability to flick a switch and get 2,000 staff working from home in within the first 48 hours,” Hutchinson says. “For any organisation, but especially a hospital, that’s extremely powerful.”

All the Trust’s support and patient administration services are now able to operate from home with a virtual desktop delivered securely to personal devices. But the benefit extends beyond admin staff.

“We have senior clinicians at home, self-isolating, who can still be online, securely accessing their patients’ records to monitor their progress. They can carry out virtual ward rounds and check on test results. Some of them didn't know it was even possible before now. It's been a game-changer for them.”

Feedback from across the Trust has been effusive, including: “the system works brilliantly” and “this is a very different NHS IT than I've come to expect over the last 16 years.”

Improving patient care and outcomes for now and the future

The situation has a further silver lining.

“The culture change has been huge,” Hutchinson says. “Citrix has helped boost clinicians’ trust in IT.” It has also both enabled and encouraged new ways of working. The hospitals has introduced virtual ward handovers and the Trust is deploying NVIDIA GRID graphics technology to allow radiologists to view high-resolution scan images and diagnose remotely.

As Trust CEO Deborah Lee says, “We delivered a 9-month Citrix VDI project in just a few days to enable our teams to provide patient care and essential services remotely.”

Looking further ahead, the Trust plans to deploy ID-card-activated, tap-and-go, follow-me desktops for its Accident and Emergency rooms.

“Citrix enabled us to respond extremely quickly to the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19, and to continue business as usual, as far as we could, without any impact on patients or services,” Hutchinson concludes. “We’re not scared to say Citrix made all the difference.”

Citrix enabled us to respond extremely quickly to the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19, and to continue business as usual, as far as we could, without any impact on patients or services. We’re not scared to say Citrix made all the difference.
Mark Hutchinson
Executive Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO)
Gloucestershire NHS Hospitals Trust



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