The Sussex Pathology Network (SPN) is due to go live with Clinisys Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) next year. With the support of Cloud21, the procurement process was successfully implemented under a tight deadline of less than six months with cost savings of around £3 million.
Emily Gaskell, programme director at SPN, said: “The collaboration with Cloud21 has been invaluable. Their expertise, experience in healthcare IT, and support in writing a thorough business case have provided assurance to our stakeholders and helped us secure the best value for money.”
Working towards digital maturity
The SPN is a network in formation as part of the NHS England’s national programme for pathology networks, which specified that all pathology services should be provided within one of 29 networks across the country.
It consists of three NHS trusts East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, University Hospital Sussex NHS Foundation Trust and Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Through its seven laboratories, the emerging network provides blood sciences, microbiology, cellular pathology, blood transfusion and mortuary services to all citizens in Sussex.
Like all pathology services in England, the network is following a pathway to achieve network maturity by 2024/5. This involves several ongoing programmes including digital histopathology implementation, replacing equipment contracts and workforce projects.
One critical aspect of this initiative is the implementation of a new LIMS. As a trusted partner, Cloud21 played a pivotal role in helping SPN to develop their digital strategy, write the full business case, secure significant funding, and complete the procurement process within a tight time window.
The potential of a single LIMS
SPN is currently operating with four different LIMS across its sites, creating challenges in data sharing and workflow efficiency. The current outdated systems and manual processes have resulted in delays and lost results, which causes frustration for both laboratory staff and clinicians who have ordered tests.
The vision is to implement a single, unified LIMS that would enable seamless pathology services across Sussex, ensuring high-quality, fast, and accurate results accessible from any location in the county. This would not only enhance patient care but also improve staff morale by freeing up time for scientific interpretation and reducing manual data entry.
“Pathology services are integral to patient care, and delays or lost results can have serious consequences. By implementing a single LIMS, we aim to reduce the risk of patient harm by minimising re-testing, and improve overall efficiency,” explained Emily.
Navigating tight timelines
The LIMS procurement faced a significant challenge due to tight financial deadlines. Initially, the network was allocated insufficient funds to cover the required solution, prompting a decision to delay the procurement process. However, an opportunity arose when the digital team were offered additional funding if the procurement could be completed within the current financial year – leaving a window of just five months.
Cloud21 played a crucial role in making this tight timeline possible. Under the guidance of Emily and Cloud21 CEO Dr Tony Corkett, a small but dedicated programme team was formed including experts with extensive healthcare IT strategy, delivery, and business case development experience.
A collaborative approach
This collaboration ensured the right expertise was available to navigate the complexities of the procurement process. Working closely with SPN, Cloud21 provided support in creating a digital strategy, defining the LIMS requirements and assisting with the creation of a robust business case including benefits realisation, specification development, and evaluation.
“Having people who can provide that wealth of experience and knowledge write the business case to the standard that we know will be accepted by our boards has been really assuring,” said Emily. “I think that describing the benefits of having one single LIMS was the thing that sold it to the executives. Our CFOs felt confident knowing that the business case was developed by Cloud21.”
The team of experts worked tirelessly alongside the laboratory staff to ensure the business case aligned with national requirements, giving stakeholders confidence in the proposed solution.
A successful outcome
Despite initial scepticism and the immense pressure to deliver, the collaborative efforts paid off. The procurement process was successfully executed, and a contract for the new LIMS was signed on 10th March, 2023. Based on the initial projections, SPN achieved significant savings of around £3 million.
“Everyone told us we wouldn’t do it. They said it was impossible to run a procurement in that short time frame and get a good deal, but we did,” said Emily. “We got a contract that we’re content with and that cost us less money than we forecast, which means a huge saving for the NHS.”
Notably, this outcome was not achieved by simply opting for the NHS framework-recommended solution, but rather through a competitive procurement process that allowed for better value.
The partnership between SPN and Cloud21 has demonstrated the power of collaboration, expertise, and efficient project management.
“We’re thrilled that our support has been instrumental in allowing SPN to work towards its vision of seamless pathology services across Sussex,” said Tony. “Our goal was to drive down costs and assist with the procurement of a solution that meets the network’s specific needs. We’re proud to have achieved that and exceeded expectations within a tight timeframe.”
As the implementation phase commences, SPN remains confident in Cloud21’s ability to help them unlock the full potential of their digital transformation journey.