On track for Expo 2018

By Hadleigh Stollar, 30 August 2018

NHS Digital's Hadleigh Stollar on a train platform

Getting ready for Expo 2018 is involving a lot of train travel for NHS Digital’s Hadleigh Stollar who’ll be speaking about how the National Record Locator Service will help frontline staff make more informed decisions and provide better care.

07.45am After a jam-packed weekend with the kids, a busy week awaits as I’m waiting for the train from Manchester to Leeds. As Programme Manager of the National Record Locator Service (NRLS) I travel regularly from home in Manchester to meetings at NHS Digital HQ in Leeds. In the run up to the health and care innovation Expo 2018 I’ve been making even better use of my season ticket than usual. This morning the station seems remarkably quiet. Could it be the summer holidays or is it a planning issue, unforeseen problems or workforce resistance? Similar thoughts spring to mind when I think about my own role introducing the NRLS so that clinicians can view mental health records held in different trusts.

10.15am The train takes me swiftly from Manchester to Leeds in time for my 10:15 stand-up and team meeting. Our attendance at Expo next week is high on the agenda. With only three months until NRLS go-live we’re keen to showcase at the event. The introduction of NRLS will mean that, in the first wave of implementation, around 50,000 mental health patients will receive more informed direct care if they’re in crisis. Yorkshire, North West, North East and London ambulance services are leading the way in this first phase.

It’s inspiring to be part of such a life- and service-changing technological development as the NRLS. Imagine it, your partner has a mental health crisis plan, outlining the best care to provide for them should they fall into crisis. But only the mental health trust knows it exists. Your partner does, of course. But, in a crisis will he or she be able to inform an ambulance crew? So, now here comes the NRLS. Ambulance crews can now see that a record exists and can call the crisis team to find out what it says. In future they’ll be able to retrieve the record directly. The NRLS will enable ambulance crews to treat patients in the best possible way.

It’s been an incredible experience watching the NRLS develop. What was meant to be a small-scale starting point now involves four-ambulance trusts, five mental health trusts, two system providers and two shared care record providers. Amazing considering it was just me working on this just 18 months ago.

11.30am As I look around the room, talking about Expo, I reflect on my fantastic team. It comprises technical specialists and business analysts as well as people doing essential project support, information governance (IG) management and, of course, a clinician. All recruited over the past 18 months. Humbling really. But this is digital transformational at its core. No doubt about it.

12:15pm We have a quick review of last week’s priorities. Some are red, some amber, some green. Workstream updates are next. Good news – internal development will now complete a week ahead of schedule and testing will follow. There are so many complexities – supplier development needed, IG models to be approved by several organisations across the NHS, target operating model to be completed by all the mental health trusts – the list goes on. It’s not easy. There are so many processes, and so many facets involved in the delivery of what, from the outside, seems such a simple capability.

1.00pm At the end of the meeting I reflect on the questions I considered earlier in the day. Have we planned enough? Yes, we have - we have so many, I never want to see a plan again. Have we engaged our internal and external stakeholders? Yes, we’ve had over 1,000 meetings in one form or another over the past 18 months. Did we bring everyone on board? I hope so. But you can never be certain. Were people resistant? Of course, it’s human nature, but they will engage eventually. Will NRLS be a success? I hope so, but digital transformation requires time, patience and phased implementation. Did we miss things? It’s inevitable that perhaps we did. But sharing mental health crisis plans is the just the first phase of the NRLS. In the future I hope that any of the health services I may need to come into contact with will offer enhanced direct care due to the NRLS. What a journey that would be.

Hadleigh Stollar, NHS Digital Programme Manager for Integrating Care, will be speaking about the phase 1 implementation of the National Record Locator Service at the health and care innovation Expo 2018 on 5-6 September in Manchester.