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NHS Education for Scotland:
Keeping business going in difficult circumstances
Employing around 700 people across 13 sites, NHS Education for Scotland is a national health board, responsible for supporting NHS services delivered to the people of Scotland by developing and delivering education and training for those who work in NHS Scotland. Designing new educational programmes and training courses is a collaborative exercise involving widely dispersed NHS Education for Scotland people.
Stephen Browne, Head of Information Management and Technology at NHS Education for Scotland, says: “With many of our staff remote from each other, travel had become a way of life. However, all NHS organisations are constantly looking for ways to increase productivity. So, going forward, we need to limit business travel for both cost and sustainability reasons.”
NHS Education for Scotland had been using BT MeetMe on-demand audio conferencing services for some time, but a BT presentation illuminated the opportunity for more widespread adoption. The organisation decided on a full-scale rollout of BT MeetMe, by offering an account to all employees. A web-based BT-hosted Cisco WebEx conferencing service was also made available on an opt-in basis.
For maximum benefit, BT and NHS Education for Scotland developed an internal communications programme together. This promoted the business and personal benefits of conferencing services as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. Briefing materials and a poster campaign supported the launch. User training events delivered remotely by BT specialists over conferencing showed people how to get the most from the facilities.
“In my view conferencing works best when you do it from the desk rather than going to a specially-equipped room,” observes Stephen Browne. “BT MeetMe is an absolute no-brainer. Pay-as-you-go means that there is no up front investment. If you use the service, it’ll save you money, but it won’t cost you anything if you don’t use it.”
The BT hosted Cisco WebEx service was also taken on pay-as-you-go terms, but NHS Education for Scotland will consider moving to a contractual arrangement in the future dependent upon usage.
BT has recently agreed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with OGC Buying Solutions (the UK government central procurement agency). It recognises all government conferencing services spend and leverages the buying power of the whole Public Sector. NHS Education for Scotland became one of the first organisations to opt in to the new deal and are benefiting from its specially negotiated tiered discount scheme.
The timing of the conferencing service launch couldn’t have been better, as it coincided with the onset of a sustained period of severe weather across Scotland. Stephen Browne says: “The snow and ice made travel difficult and dangerous. With BT conferencing services available to all, we were able to keep the business moving far more effectively than ever before.”
In that first month nearly 150 conferences were convened using BT MeetMe, and usage has steadily grown since. Although it’s still early days, BT conferencing services are already making a big contribution in terms of cost and time savings.
Around 100 people have signed up for WebEx and it’s proving very useful particularly when multiple parties need to share documentation, either in-house or with external suppliers. Stephen Browne comments: “An example is the development of our new web site. We now have WebEx project meetings with our London-based web developers. We can review and discuss the content without anyone needing to travel.”
Another welcome benefit is that such collaborative tools are helping to make better use of the working day.Stephen Browne explains: “Conferencing services make people much more available, because you no longer need to consider travel time when scheduling meetings. That means that as well as saving cost and benefiting the environment, it’s helping us speed up decision-making.”
A reduction in long message chains provides more evidence of this. Rather than enter into protracted debates via email, NHS Education for Scotland staff are now far more likely to organise a short conference call.
Feedback has been very positive, and includes a story from William Liu, who trains doctors and others on how to use the Scottish Online Appraisal Resource Database. Prior to collaboration tools being available, he had to make personal visits to the different health boards in Scotland.
"If it wasn’t for BT MeetMe and WebEx, I’d have been stranded in Orkney at Christmas, as the bad weather moved in,” William recalls. “With BT WebEx and MeetMe there’s just me at my desk with computer and phone. It’s already made a huge difference with no travel costs – for me or participants – and no equipment or room hire. Best of all there was 100 per cent attendance for the Orkney sessions.”
- BT MeetMe, part of the BT One Collaborate audio portfolio
- BT-hosted Cisco WebEx, part of the BT One Collaborate web portfolio