Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust has deployed a virtualised desktop service (VDI) to help support staff during the current pandemic.

The specialist mental health trust worked with AIMES to deploy the fully integrated system as the country switched to remote working during the pandemic.

This switch raised some challenges for the trust, including the need to support those who had not been issued with trust owned IT hardware yet but needed to work remotely.

Jon Rex, CIO at the trust, explained how the project was prompted at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

“We as an organisation are unusual from an NHS perspective because we are partly a mental health trust and partly a university, so we have quite a mixture of what we call honoraries and students who require access to our systems,” he said.

“Quite early on in the process when we were going into the first lockdown, it was pretty obvious that we, as a trust, were going to run into some problems because these honoraries and students need access our systems internally via spare machines to put clinical notes onto our system.

“But during lockdown they weren’t going into the building – all of our clinical sessions had gone remote – so we needed something where we could give people access to the systems internally, without having access to Tavistock equipment”.

The project resulted in the development of the AIMES M-Cloud solution, which provided a pay-as-you-use model for desktop computing based upon the concurrent usage of the devices rather than the number staff employed.

In practice, the solution provided a flexible pool of virtual desktop’s that users can log in to. Once their work was performed they can then log out and the virtual desktop is returned to the pool.

For Jon, the AIMES solution was the right one for Tavistock and Portman because it eventually helped “maintain clinical continuity”.

AIMES is a UK company which has been delivering cloud-based solutions and services to NHS client for over 10 years.

Glenn Roberts, business development director at AIMES, told Digital Health News how partnerships are key when it comes to health IT projects.

“At AIMES we have developed a reputation for delivering new and innovative services and for not over promising,” Roberts explained.

“For example the M-Cloud implementation at Tavistock and Portman needed a combination of a detailed technical understanding of how ‘on-demand’ VDI services would work within an NHS setting but also how this could be delivered in collaboration with the trust’s in-house IT team in the midst of a pandemic.

“The secret is partnership – through developing confidence that when services are deployed they will work first time, by delivering the business benefits that were promised in the original investment case and by providing ongoing support that is as passionate as the innovators were on day one.”

For other NHS trusts who may be looking to do a similar, Jon said it’s important to make sure the reasonings behind the project are the right ones.

“A key thing for me is having a strong use case of why you want it in the first place, I think quite often IT functions can become vanity projects because technology is there and it’s wonderful and shiny,” he said.

“I always make sure I ask the questions ‘why are we doing it? What is it for? Who is going to get any benefit from it?’.

“You also need to maintain a level of reality about what and when the project can be achieved as people’s expectations can get way too high.

“Finally, make sure you can understand what it can do, make sure it fulfills the requirements that you have and then put a highly qualified project team to deliver it appropriately.”

You can hear more from Tavistock and Portman and AIMES at a Digital Health Best Practice webinar which is taking place on Friday (March 5).

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