Ayesha Rahim, Chief Clinical Information Officer, Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust
Embracing digital technology post-pandemic and promoting women from ethnically diverse backgrounds in digital health.
Ayesha Rahim is the Chief Clinical Information Officer in Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a clinical psychiatrist specialising in mental health for women around the time of pregnancy and a senior medical manager. She discusses embracing digital technology trust-wide post-Covid and promoting women from ethnically diverse backgrounds in digital health.
"It’s important that people with a clinical background have an input and help codesign digital solutions."
Ayesha oversees the roll-out of digital technology throughout the trust, which consists of 6.5 thousand staff across several hospitals. She says: “I’m the clinical lead for technology. All NHS organisations have IT departments but, because the technology we implement is for clinical care, it’s important that people with a clinical background have an input and help codesign digital solutions to deliver good patient care and make life easier for our staff.”
“The pandemic has turbo charged our use of technology within the NHS."
The pandemic has forced the NHS to modernise technologically, and in record time. “The pandemic has turbo charged our use of technology within the NHS," affirms Ayesha. "Historically, the NHS has lagged behind in the use of technology. A really obvious example is online consultations. Traditionally, particularly in mental health, we’ve prioritised face-to-face contact as a way of delivering care on a daily basis. Seeing somebody face to face is a very human thing to do. Because of Covid-19, patients and staff were ill and needed to self-isolate. Very quickly, we had to find a way that both patients and staff could safely access and deliver mental health services.”
"A lot of laptop components were manufactured in Wuhan. Our supply chain ground to a halt."
At the heart of the trust’s digital and technological response to the pandemic, Ayesha faced practical problems. She remembers: “It was really complex because of our IT equipment. We had to give laptops to staff who didn’t previously have laptops, and a lot of laptop components were manufactured in Wuhan. Our supply chain ground to a halt.” Liaising between all the players in the NHS has been essential to roll out a technological solution. “My role is to bring people together," she states. "We had to give staff the equipment they needed, introduce a new video-conferencing platform, train people remotely and make sure that patients had the right resources and knew how to access them. We did it in collaboration with our patients, with our on-the-ground staff who weren’t digital experts, and with our NHS managers and with the teams who make sure that the services continue working. Digital ways of working are much more embedded than they were.”
"I’m not just a woman, but I’m also a woman from an ethnic minority background."
As a woman in the NHS, Ayesha highlights the support she has received throughout her 18-year career but acknowledges the difficulties faced by women from ethnically diverse backgrounds: “I’m not just a woman, but I’m also a woman from an ethnic minority background. My particular subgroup of people is very under-represented at more senior levels. The NHS has a long way to go before it’s able to fully redress those imbalances.” Ayesha helps support other women and particularly women from ethnically diverse backgrounds through the Shuri network. “We mentor women from ethnic minority backgrounds who are working, or want to work in the digital health field," she says. "We provide resources and support. I’m very much a believer of ‘lift as you climb’. I want to try and redress some of the imbalances that we still face on a daily basis.”
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