The challenge

In 2020, we worked in partnership with NHS colleagues at NEL Healthcare Consulting (NHC) to provide flexible support to NHS England & Improvement (NHSEI) across a range of national and regional projects. The projects identified required a broad range of capabilities including agile project management, stakeholder management, analytics, evaluation and subject matter expertise.

In the middle of this period, the COVID-19 emergency was declared in the UK. Working together, we were able to repurpose our support teams to provide NHSEI with additional capacity at a critical time in the Covid-19 pandemic response.​

Our approach 

Our key partnership projects included:

1. Better Care Fund (BCF) Programme and Future BCF Implementation

Our team worked with the BCF programme team to provide recommendations to shape the future structure of the programme at a national level and to facilitate better delivery at the local level. This included developing a set of local metrics to better measure impact and success.

2. Digital First Primary Care – South East Region

NHSEI requested support to accelerate the uptake of Digital First Primary Care services in the South East. We formed an Intensive Support Team (IST) alongside NHS Digital colleagues to co-design the change process and manage the deployment plan. We engaged with key operational staff within the region to share learning. This collective understanding and appreciation of the different challenges each system was facing allowed us to streamline key technical processes and accelerate progress.

3. Repatriating London’s Learning Disability (LD) and Autism (ASD) female patients

In 2019, there were no specialist low secure beds for females ages 18+ with a LD or ASD in London. All patients in this cohort were therefore placed out of area (OAP), or in London in non-specialist provision. NHSEI requested support to re-engage with providers to bring beds online in 2020.

Through engagement with local and national commissioners and data gathering, we built an evidence base for the current and continued need for a new service and formally invited Oxleas for further discussion.

4. Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) Data Collection

The WDES is a set of metrics which compares the experience of disabled staff in the NHS workforce, mandated through the NHS Standard Contract. The WDES team requested support to review their national data collection. After an options appraisal process and metrics review, we worked with NHSEI to build a new online reporting system. The system was piloted with engagement with Equality & Diversity Leads at Trusts and the WDES Steering Group with strong support for the proposed changes.

5. Virtual Care (Education) and Treatment Reviews (C(E)TRs)

The COVID-19 pandemic saw challenges in the rapid shift to home working that was required across the system. NHSEI found particular challenges with carrying out Care (Education) and Treatment Reviews in a virtual forum. C(E)TRs were developed as part of NHSEI’s commitment to improvement the care of people with a LD and ASD. In line with Sir Simon Stevens’ direction, NHSEI requested our support to transition the range of stakeholders involved to deliver virtual C(E)TRs. We created three separate training packages for commissioners, providers and experts by experience/clinical reviewers and delivered these with NHSEI.

6. Covid-19 Workforce Diversity

It was apparent early on that those with underlying conditions were at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. There was also emerging data showing that there was a disproportionate impact on BAME staff. As a result, NHSEI reinstated the WDES collection alongside the WRES (Workforce Race Equality Standard) collection as part of a wider package of work to better support these cohorts of staff. We supported the rapid restart of the WDES data collection, engaging with key NHSEI enabler teams. We also held virtual listening events for disabled staff to understand their experiences during the pandemic and to feedback to NHSEI to support the ongoing design of the work plan.