Public Services > Healthcare

Relaunch of withdrawn NHS 24 system to commence next month

Neil Merrett Published 26 August 2016

Telehealth group says it expects the phased launch of operational system to begin in September with focus on care telephony services; national rollout still intended for late 2017


Scottish telehealth organisation NHS 24 says it expects next month to commence the scaled launch of a revised operational system it withdrew shortly after going live last year ahead of a full national rollout that is still scheduled for the end of 2017.

The upgraded technology, which is used to support NHS 24’s phone and online services, had been intended to be introduced from this summer, pending technical approvals and the assessment of staff readiness for the system following previous concerns about training that was given by the organisation.

However, a spokesperson for NHS 24 said the first planned phase of the launch would begin in September 2016, and focus on planned care telephony services such as Breathing Space, NHS Living Life, Musculoskeletal helpline, Death Certification, Blood Transfusion and Fit For Work Service.

“The next phase, following further detailed planning, will be to partner with one health board initially to introduce the system in a controlled environment with dedicated resource, ensuring it is working effectively prior to a broader national roll out by the end of 2017,” added the spokesperson.

NHS 24 hopes that taking a longer term phased approach to introduce the system, before pushing it out across Scotland, would allow to better address the types of issues that saw the new technology withdrawn over potential patient safety fears raised by whistleblowers last year.

Particularly in the area of training, the organisation said staff would now be taking part in system user testing to raise possible operational issues ahead of the finalisation of the technology that will be used to support healthcare organisations throughout Scotland.

“Staff will be fully trained on the system prior to go live during 2017. Feedback from staff raised during the previous go live have been addressed and mechanisms for raising issues remain in place,” added NHS 24.

On the back of the changes as a result of the delayed implementation, the organisation claimed the system would retain its original intended functionality with the aim of supporting the triage of patients calling NHS 24 in out of hours periods.

Sources with knowledge of the development and use of the operational system have previously argued that numerous concerns have been raised around functionality, training and overall staff engagement concerning the technology's implementation to NHS 24.

One source previously told Government Computing that a number of staff using the system had raised concerns about difficulties they faced, alleging that many of these issues were seemingly dismissed by NHS 24 at the time as simple opposition to technological change.

"However, these concerns were real and found to be borne out when the technology was launched," said the individual.

According to findings of an NHS 24 Board paper that was released later, "Weaknesses in the training and familiarisation approach" were seen as resulting in a lack of operational experience and reduced staff confidence in the system.

"Overall, although the technology was stable it is clear that the system as configured was not fully ready for use and that the NHS 24 operational teams were not fully ready to use the system as configured," said the report.

Related articles:

NHS 24 rejects June relaunch for delayed operational system

Withdrawn NHS 24 system could relaunch by early summer


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