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Digital Aspirant Programme Accelerates Digital Maturity and Improves Care at St Helens and Knowsley

31st March 2021

  • More than 2,000 clinicians and nurses moved off paper for observations, assessments, handover and referrals
  • Over 30,000 electronic handovers completed per month
  • New digital processes supporting target to remove 90% of paper


St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (STHK) has used funding from NHSX’s Digital Aspirant programme to fast-track digital transformation for safer and more efficient care using clinical modules from System C’s EPR.

The Trust’s transformation journey under the Digital Aspirant programme ranges from taking clinicians off paper for assessments, referrals and handovers, to the deployment of a real-time system for managing the flow of patients through the hospital.  Other planned highlights include the introduction of electronic care plans and a Clinical Workspace which gives clinicians a single view of essential clinical information with single sign on to integrated systems.

The latest phase of the programme has included replacing paper-based processes with integrated digital workflows including electronic handovers. 

The Trust’s director of informatics, Christine Walters, explained: 

Early evidence is showing the new functionality is saving around 20 minutes per ward round and we are planning a robust benefits study later in the year. It’s a brilliant example of technology enabling increased productivity and quality of care, which is a major plus in the Trust’s drive to better support our staff and patients.

The mobile electronic handover system both streamlines the process and standardises the format, all of which is improving consistency, efficiency, collaboration and patient safety.  Handover notes are dynamically updated by multi-professional teams and date/time stamp to create a robust audit trail. When patients move between departments, the handover information moves with them.

To date, 124,000 handovers have been completed using CareFlow with 31,000 carried out in the last month. 

Assessments are also becoming digital, with nursing teams using mobile devices to complete dementia screening and nutritional and alcohol assessments.  The move to the new system will reduce the time taken to complete essential documentation and is due to go live next month.

Sonia Patel, chief information officer at NHSX, said:

Supporting frontline NHS organisations to digitally transform is at the heart of NHSX. The Digital Aspirant programme is key to supporting those organisations that need more assistance.

Trusts like St Helens and Knowsley are fantastic examples of the benefits that digital can bring when an organisation is committed to transform.

In a further development, STHK has deployed new mobile care collaboration functionality so teams are able to work together efficiently and safely around the needs of the patient. 

Important benefits include the ability to create live electronic patient lists, complete with up-to-date information including observations and results.  This was essential for organising emerging workflows and co-ordinating care for specific groups of patients such as those in Covid-19 ITU and Covid-19 Virtual Wards. 

Teams across the Trust are also able to collaborate on the digital platform to manage patient referrals from primary care and ED to specialities in a structured situation, background, assessment, recommendation (SBAR) format.

Ragit Varia, clinical director and consultant in acute medicine at STHK, commented:

Not only has CareFlow standardised and streamlined patient referrals but it has enabled enhanced accessibility via clinician’s devices. This means the shift lead can have a helicopter view of all acute admissions, and resources can be maximised using the task management facility.

Christine Walters said:

All this is making the Trust more agile in response to the care required in the region and provides clinical teams with the information they need to provide that care efficiency and safely.

Further Covid-19 response activities include the development of integrated alerts and tagging within the CareFlow EPR.  Clinical teams can opt into being immediately alerted to positive Covid-19 results from the patient administration system to their mobile devices and are able to track and monitor associated patients using the clinical tagging feature.

Andy Ashton, ED consultant, St Helens and Knowlsey, added:

It is particularly useful that it works on PC and mobile devices. ED consultants and medical registrars are frequently on the move so being able to use CareFlow on the phone is very helpful. The phone has now become a shorthand access device to find the early warning score and results for your patient.

In Orthopaedics they are also using the new system to maintain dynamic lists of patients for theatre. The theatre staff love it because they know exactly where the patients are when they go to collect them.

Andrew Hill, stroke consultant and the chief clinical information officer at STHK, is part of the team driving the Digital Aspirant programme. 

This has been a clinically-led programme across the Trust which is being embraced brilliantly by staff.  The high levels of interaction are leading to further innovative uses and benefit realisation.  It is a good example of technology modernising processes in action.

System C’s partnership with St Helens and Knowsley began in 2017 with the implementation of the company’s patient administration, order communications and emergency department modules.

The System C & Graphnet Care Alliance supports St Helens Care, the local place-based care system which uses Graphnet’s shared record system to share health and care records between social, acute, primary and community care.

Dr Ian Denley, joint chief executive of System C, said:

St Helens and Knowsley’s enthusiasm and engagement for digital innovation is first class.  I’m pleased that the Trust is quantifying the fruits of its labour with benefits realisation and we are really excited to support the Trust further on its journey to digital excellence and quality care

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