Healthcare3 min read

East London NHS Foundation Trust Closes the Gap Between Technology and the Point of Care

Ciara McIlvenna

The East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) is a National Health Service trust that provides an array of mental health and community health services in the East London region of the United Kingdom, serving the City of London, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Bedfordshire and Luton. The Trust is responsible for managing and delivering various services, including inpatient and community-based mental health care, services for substance use disorders, and services for children and families. ELFT collaborates closely with other entities such as local authorities and primary care providers to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care. The Trust is governed by a board of directors and is accountable to the NHS and the Department of Health.

Our mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve and help them recover from the pandemic. It’s an issue of social justice that we’re committed to support, and technology can help us do that.”

James Slaven, Chief Technology Officer, East London NHS Foundation Trust

“Sometimes there’s a big gap between the technology and the point of care,” says James Slaven, chief technology officer, East London NHS Foundation Trust. “Our mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve and help them recover from the pandemic. It’s an issue of social justice that we’re committed to support, and technology can help us do that.”

Meeting rising demand for healthcare services

As part of its plan to meet rising demand, and to address unexpected and overwhelming stress on its systems wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, ELFT made the decision to migrate to the cloud, using the additional capacity to significantly scale its IT infrastructure, virtualize its networks, and implement a robust disaster recovery solution.

“We work with our partners to deliver person-centered coordinated mental and physical healthcare,” says Slaven. “It’s key that we have a solid, robust platform to deliver innovative solutions that can improve service user care such as patients accessing and managing their own records.”

Effective technology allows clinical staff to engage more with service users than they were previously able to do.

“During the pandemic, the world changed for us overnight in terms of the way our service users receive care,” says Slaven. “We found there were a huge number of people who were excluded because they didn’t have laptops and mobile phones. So, we enabled digital pods, a piece of software overlaid on top of traditional computing, so users could come into one of our pod areas and receive care from clinicians.”

Creating and ensuring a strong IT foundation

Under ordinary conditions, such a move would have required many months to execute, but the Trust needed to accomplish the transition quickly. This is healthcare, and there could be no disruptions.

“From a digital perspective, we needed to ensure we had a strong foundation,” says Usman Malik, infrastructure and unified communications lead, East London NHS Foundation Trust. “The platforms that support at the Trust have a direct impact on patient and service user care. It’s important that those foundations are strong, and that we make the correct strategic decisions to determine where the Trust is headed. Not just in the short to medium term, but over a five-year period.”

Already a VMware shop—the Trust has enjoyed a long association with VMware—its IT infrastructure resided on a suite of VMware solutions, including vSphere. ELFT selected a solution that would enable a swift, smooth transition. The Trust chose VMware Cloud on AWS, activating VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery features as well as the included VMware NSX features which allow ELFT to create virtualized network devices, including switches and routers.

The VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery solution simplifies protecting workloads running on VMware Cloud on AWS by replicating them to a secondary, disaster recovery site, on the cloud, or on an on-premises vSphere environment.

Making a swift migration to the cloud

Good preparation for a complex move is key. After several weeks of planning with VMware teams to discern project requirements, the ELFT team was ready to move. The IT staff at ELFT, led by Slaven and Malik, executed the migration and activation with their teams, with the VMware teams standing by for support.

“The way VMware supported us when looking at different cloud platforms, different options, attending calls with us where needed or even face-to-face meetings if required, they really went that extra mile to make sure we progressed to that platform,” says Slaven.

On Monday morning, the VMware Customer Success Team received a call from the ELFT team, saying the migration was complete. Clinicians and hospital staff logged in and were none the wiser that hospital’s IT infrastructure had made a wholesale migration over the weekend. It was business as usual, but faster.

“All my life has been in the digital field,” says Slaven. “I’ve always felt that the right technology, in the right place, can really make an impact. Taking that into healthcare, if we get the right digital solutions, that can really help make a difference in how that care is delivered.”