The Model Hospital: is the NHS ready to embrace big data?

Model Hospital NHS

The Model Hospital is a digital information system provided by NHSI to help trusts find ways to improve productivity and efficiency. The Carter Review was the instruction to become more efficient, and effectively, the Model Hospital is the central tool to help trusts make it happen.

It was introduced in 2016, and to date it has been heralded as a success. In reality, it’s much harder to see how successful it’s been.

The NHS’ bad relationship with data

The NHS has a history of being behind the times when it comes to using data to progress. From stories of GPs still recording patient data in notebooks to countless tales of trusts failing to update legacy IT, it’s a stagnant problem.

But at the same time, it’s increasingly accepted that data is the future – for every aspect of the NHS. So the Model Hospital sits at the centre of a seismic shift. For the Model Hospital to work, everyone in the NHS needs to believe in the power of data. Essentially, it’s a shift in culture.

This is wrought with challenges. The Model Hospital makes a mind-boggling amount of data available, but resource is needed to make sense of it. Lord Carter’s assertion that the Model Hospital identifies ‘unwarranted variations’ is a tad misleading: in reality, it offers data, but not the people to analyse it.

This in turn presents further challenges. More budget is required to get started, and trusts, inevitably already in the red, start back-peddling.

Here is just one issue among myriad others. Using the Model Hospital demands time, effort, resource and a fundamental cultural shift. It can be a hard sell to trusts under unprecedented budgetary pressures.

Big hopes for big data

The NHS is the largest single-payer healthcare system in the world, and therefore has unrivalled purchasing power. But the Model Hospital is already showing that this power is not being flexed.

Huge discrepancies in the prices paid for equipment and drugs from one trust to another have been identified. Millions can be saved with incredibly simple changes. And in the area of workforce procurement huge variations have been identified in the way bank staff are paid and managed, unused hours are managed and rosters are scheduled.

As a report by NHS Providers shows, sophisticated E-rostering technology is the obvious answer. And here’s where the Model Hospital is starting to make progress. By helping to identify inefficiencies through clear and undeniable data, better informed recommendations are being made. Technology like ours, which itself makes better use of data to improve NHS rostering an in-house banks, becomes the solution to the problem.

Trusts need to trust what data can do

The Model Hospital presents a curious challenge for trusts. Its potential is at least partly determined by trusts’ willingness to share its own data. And its ability to shine a light on embarrassing inefficiencies – like soluble tablets bought for £1.50 each when equally suitable non-soluble options were available for 2p – can make it a frightening prospect. Do trusts really want to be exposed to these kinds of headlines?

There will be bumps and bruises along the way, but the opportunity here is undeniable. Few now question the importance of making better use of the NHS’ data, and that data will show just how inefficient outdated systems and methods are.

Demand for technology that can solve these inefficiencies is increasing, and will continue to do so. Our own technology makes workforce management, e-rostering, reducing agency spend and building a better in-house bank a breeze. It’s intuitive, innovative, and uses state-of-the-art design to make it more useable for both workers and shift managers. And we’re finding that usability is really making a difference in terms of cultural buy in.

For a free demo of any of our solutions, head here.


Irina Buzdugan