Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust provides local general hospital and community services to around 260,000 people in Walsall and the surrounding areas. This comprises Walsall Manor Hospital, which provides the full range of district general hospital services under one roof, and includes state of the art operating theatres, treatment areas and equipment. In addition, the Trust is responsible for a 60-site community health service including Health Centre’s and GP surgeries. Trust also has a palliative care centre. The services are delivered by a staff of 4,400, and responsibility for IT falls to Craig Cox, End User Computer Service Delivery Manager and Ibrar Hashmi, Digital Technology Project Manager.
During the coronavirus pandemic, all organisations were fighting for the same kit – Stone did us proud in securing what we needed.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
Why the Trust chose Stone
Stone Group is the partner of choice for over 20% of NHS Trusts in the UK and has been working with Walsall for some time providing PCs and peripherals.
Craig said: “It was apparent from the start of our relationship that Stone did things differently, as they went to the trouble of putting on a roadshow at their head office and inviting key suppliers for us to meet. They provided a lot of information, and as a result, we decided to use Lenovo devices from Stone which have proved great value for money.”
The Trust had also been taking advantage of Stone’s IT Asset Disposal Service. “Previously we had worked with a company which did not fill us with confidence in terms of their governance and auditing processes,” said Craig, “whereas Stone provide us with a complete paper trail.”
Stone guarantee that unwanted data-bearing equipment is responsibly wiped and processed in compliance with GDPR regulations, with total traceability, accountability, and maximum security, every step of the way. Their expert technicians use industry leading Blannco software, to ensure all data on every piece of kit is erased to the same standards as the MOD, and customers are provided with full certification and reporting for the entire process.
A key benefit of working with Stone is not only their considerable experience in the sector, but their unique, consultative approach to delivering bespoke solutions. Stone take the time to truly understand what each individual client wants to achieve, to not only recommend the most appropriate solution, but detail how best to best integrate and manage it.
In the case of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Stone have worked closely with their team to update their IT estate up to a level that is fit for today’s needs and requirements.
Pandemic planning to protect staff and patients
By using Stone kit, virtual clinics offer numerous advantages to both medical staff and patients:
- Medical staff don’t have to waste time travelling from one Trust site to another to meet patients
- Less travelling should free up time to see more patients
- Staff now have much more flexibility to work from any Trust location
- Clinic times are not constrained by having to wait for the relevant rooms to become available on the Trust estate
- *Staff will also be able to enjoy a better work life balance and this is particularly important for those with children
- Patients don’t have to travel to clinics which could be miles from where they live
- Patients don’t have to wait around for hours to see a doctor or nurse.
Once COVID-19 arrived, the Trust asked as many staff as possible to work from home. This started in phases, with the most vulnerable being sent home first, followed by other staff on a rota basis. However, strict security measures meant that staff were not able to use any of their own devices to carry out NHS work.
Craig said: “Security and patient privacy is paramount and we could not risk any breaches. In addition, personal computers would not have the relevant software or necessary VDI licensing and so we urgently needed to procure software, laptops and coding stations etc.”
However, this was easier said than done, as around the world other businesses and organisations were desperately seeking similar kit to support home workers.
“We were well aware of the constraints Stone were facing when it came to the supply network,” said Craig. “However, I cannot praise our Account Manager enough for his hard work and tenacity in sourcing what we needed. With Stone’s support, we manged to procure 500 laptops and get 80% of our staff working from home in just over two and a half weeks; an amazing achievement.”
Stone sent the laptops to a central location at the Trust where, after setting them up with the relevant emails and log in details, Trust staff were called in to sign for and collect their individual kit. Remote working was a totally new way of doing business for the Trust and everyone was thrown in at the deep end, however, Chris believes that having now experienced this way of working there is no going back.
He said: “If there is a silver lining to this crisis it is that the NHS virtual clinic is here to stay. Having seen the benefits and cost savings which are critical in healthcare, the Trust won’t be going back to the way things were. The future has arrived.”
A new IT structure for the Trust
This new way of working has been supported by all departments from Paediatrics to Geriatrics,” said Chris. “Patients themselves have found the process easy to use and can speak to their medical team from a smart phone or PC – this saves them having to wait around for hours in a clinic or hospital.”
The transition to home working has been a fast-moving process, as the NHS recognised the importance of protecting their staff during the pandemic. “We have sadly lost staff to COVID-19 at Walsall,” said Chris. “Close to home, we have lost IT colleagues, and so I was grateful that we had a partner like Stone who was able to respond with such speed and flexibility to get us the kit we needed. Having staff working safely from home helped reduce footfall on premise, minimise the impact of the virus and genuinely saved lives.”
“I believe the NHS is the best Healthcare system in the world, but prior to the coronavirus we had a creaking IT infrastructure. As we have had to respond to the challenges faced by the virus, our infrastructure is now of the same high standard as the healthcare. Walsall Healthcare Trust is now in a very strong position to protect both staff and patients, whatever happens in the future.”
“Walsall Healthcare Trust is now in a very strong position to protect both staff and patients, whatever happens in the future.”
Craig Cox – End User Computer Service Delivery Manager
Improving communication through coronavirus and beyond
Prior to the coronavirus, the Trust had been working with Stone to provide AV equipment. Stone have some of the highest level of partner accreditations with the biggest names in AV, meaning they are recognised to have the expertise to add value for their clients. In addition, Stone have a dedicated AV team at their HQ, supported by a network of skilled engineers.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Walsall Healthcare realised it needed to increase and enhance its AV capability to help staff communicate safely and effectively.
Ibrar said: “We reached out to our suppliers, and Stone’s service and professionalism was apparent from the start. Unlike their competitors who simply reeled off a list of what we could have, they dug deeper to uncover what it was we set out to achieve. They really took the time to understand our needs – and, they also provided the most cost effective quote!”
Stone liaised with the ICT Team and project managers to design a cost effective and professional AV solution, so the hospital’s clinical and management teams were able to conduct remote meetings, across disparate locations while the pandemic was ongoing.
The Trust had been using an older solution throughout their sites. Ibrar said: “Prior to working with Stone we believed we were working with the ideal solution for our organisation. However, once Stone started to get into the detail of what exactly it was we wanted from our AV project and take the time to understand our specific needs, they recommended something else entirely. They advised using Microsoft Teams Room solution instead of the older set up, which essentially does exactly the same thing but at a quarter of the cost!”
“Stone really took the time to understand our needs – and, they also provided the most cost effective quote!”
Ibrar Hashmi– Digital Technology Project Manager
I like the fact Stone is not just a ‘fire and forget’ supplier. Once they have provided what you need they remain in constant touch.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
Continued Support from Stone
Stone also recommended Iiyama screens, Yealink (UC) unified communications collaboration bar (VC-210), and Microsoft Teams, which completed the AV package to provide a simple to use yet incredibly effective solution.
“The Yealink VC-210 is essentially an all singing and dancing docking device,” said Ibrar. “The screens have great definition and sound, and the Yealink VC-210 is smart yet intuitive to use as it’s Microsoft Teams activated, so it almost feels like it has its own brain. It’s compatibility with Teams is beneficial, as we have been using the platform for two years. Altogether, Stone’s recommended AV solution is totally seamless and works brilliantly,” said Ibrar.
The solution has been so successful that the Trust’s initial order for ten, saw a further 20 being rolled out and they are now looking to buy more, which makes Walsall Healthcare Trust a record breaker. In fact, it’s the first large-scale deployment of the Yealink collaboration bars and Microsoft Teams solution.
As each meeting room comes on board, Stone engineers are on site to set everything up, and they do not leave until they are totally satisfied that everything is in full working order.
“Stone is incredibly responsive,” said Ibrar. “On one occasion, I discovered on a Friday that I needed something setting up urgently for the following Monday. I made the call at 10.30 on the Friday morning to ask if Stone could help, and that same afternoon I had two Stone engineers on site setting up the screens and preparing a meeting room for me. Stone always go out of their way to help and this is typical of the service we receive from them.”
Stone AV equipment offers a warranty and in addition, Stone’s experts will also help with additional warranties and licences if required. Craig adds: “The fact that Stone has such great relationships with all its suppliers means they take care of the pain usually involved with this kind of thing – and that’s great for us.”
Prior to having the Stone AV solution, personnel were having to cram into a room that made it impossible to follow social distancing guidelines as this was the only way that staff could access important meetings. In addition to helping the Trust with virtual collaboration, Stone provided large format displays and high-quality speakers across a number of meeting rooms which enable staff to space out and practice social distancing when physical meetings resume. Now, they can meet safely and connect to any of their colleagues in their own Trust, in the UK, or even internationally.
“Communication has improved threefold thanks to the solution proposed by Stone,” said Craig. “It had made an enormous difference to the way we can all talk to each other.
“The Trust has to change the way it works and in many ways, it is unrecognisable to the way it looked before the coronavirus. Having a partner like Stone working alongside us has meant the significant transition we have had to establish, at an almost unheard of speed, has been quite painless. When this is all over, I will definitely be taking our Stone colleagues for a pint!”