Charlotte English, Senior Improvement Lead, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Straight into the NHS at the age of eighteen, her first ever job was a hospital receptionist. Seventeen years later, having put herself through university alongside a full-time job, Charlotte English has worked her way up the management rungs to become a Senior Improvement Lead for the Outpatient Transformation Programme. “It was a hard slog for three years, but worth it in terms of where I am now,” she says.
"It’ll be an epic system that will do almost everything, an all-singing all-dancing system that we’ve not had before"
An indicator of the unprecedented technological progress underway in the NHS since the onset of the pandemic, Charlotte’s work has taken a sharp digital turn: “We’re a year ahead of the implementation phase planned because of Covid. Non-clinical teams have had time to push forward with the implementation of very technical projects. It’ll be an epic system that will do almost everything, an all-singing all-dancing system that we’ve not had before.”
Charlotte has been instrumental in a range of digital projects, which include an #eclinic, a platform where patients can view their appointments digitally, receive text reminders and emails, use WhatsApp for communications and operate a video consultation platform. “Patients can use the portal to raise a red flag. It will be more inclusive,” she explains.
Now, a #digital pre-assessment workstream also allows patients listed for surgery under a general anaesthetic to complete a pre-assessment from home. The benefit is that “we don’t need to see them to check they’re fit for surgery, so we can free up nursing time to focus on more sickly patients.”
A wound surveillance platform also went live recently, consisting of a #digital photo platform to replace the former paper questionnaires. Its aim is “to reduce any surgical site infections and stop that patient from either appearing in A&E because they’ve got an infection or being transferred into hospital.”
"We’ll have outreach areas for patients ... in supermarket carparks ... or in reconditioned shop premises where the high street is dying out"
Self-check-in kiosks around the hospital site and a mobile app that allows people to check in from their car or the coffee shop are just a few more of the many significant changes, and on the cards for the imminent future is an outreach service for phlebotomy: “We’ll have outreach areas for patients that need frequent blood and urine tests, in supermarket carparks — an NHS truck was implemented at the start of the pandemic — or in reconditioned shop premises where the high street is dying out. We can use spaces like this to run NHS services so that patients have a place to get tests done closer to home.”
"As long as you’ve got that focus, the world is your oyster"
As a woman in the NHS, Charlotte has had to take responsibility for technological improvements, traditionally more of a male domain, for which she had little experience. “The first six months were difficult,” she acknowledges. “I was asking lots of questions and probably getting on people’s nerves. But to get to where we are now, I couldn’t have done it any other way. It took a bit of time to get over those initial hurdles at the beginning.” She also notes the opportunities available to women in the NHS: “As long as you’ve got that focus, the world is your oyster.”
"There will always be a proportion of patients that don’t feel comfortable with digital"
Making the #digital revolution accessible to all patients is the biggest challenge for the foreseeable future: “There will always be a proportion of patients that don’t feel comfortable with #digital or who don’t have the technology at home. #Digital is the way forward. We need to bring those people along with us on that journey.” #empoweringwomen #womeninthenhs #medicalblog #nhsdigital #genevieveshaw
Genevieve Shaw, Editor
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