The events of the past year have seen businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes struggle in some way or another. But perhaps nowhere has been hit harder than our NHS, and Deryck Mitchelson, director of National Digital and Information Security at NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), has seen much of it firsthand.
As part of his role, Mitchelson runs Scotland’s digital health strategy, services, and infrastructure. With a £120m portfolio and a team of 400 staff, that’s no easy function even in normal times.
But with the arrival of the pandemic, Mitchelson’s responsibilities expanded to also include the implementation of Scotland’s COVID-19 systems and services, including its ongoing vaccine programme.
The scale of the challenge
When I caught up with him over Zoom recently, Mitchelson was honest about the mammoth task before him.
The Now Platform® has proved essential in the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) across Scotland.
“This is the greatest challenge NHS Scotland has ever faced, no doubt about it. How do you keep your front-line health workers safe while nursing incredibly sick people, and at the same time, roll out a programme to vaccinate 4.5 million people safely?”
After all, according to Mitchelson, “It’s not just the vaccine programme that needs to go ahead smoothly. The health boards responsible for conducting this huge testing and vaccination drive are, at the same time, trying to maintain the normal NHS services we all rely on.”
“The result is that we’ve never seen the NHS quite so challenged. The pace of work is extraordinary. My team works until 3 or 4 in the morning, day in, day out, together with engineers from ServiceNow, creating and maintaining the solutions that are keeping NHS Scotland and its response to the pandemic going.”
For Mitchelson, it’s a huge amount of responsibility. But that hasn’t seen him shy away from making bold decisions.
“You just can’t conduct this kind of massive campaign on a small-scale level. It was clear that we needed something much more comprehensive to face this challenge.”
Out-of-the-box and into the fire
As a result, together with ServiceNow, Mitchelson and his team devised a brand-new vaccine management platform in just six weeks.
Mitchelson explains why ServiceNow was the partner of choice for such a massive endeavour:
“We just didn’t have time to start from scratch. We needed to create a solution that was as out-of-the-box as possible. Thanks to our previous experiences, we knew ServiceNow was capable of offering something that was ready-to-go and easy to tweak, fast.”
So, what exactly have they created?
“Our vaccine management system, built on the back of the ServiceNow Now Platform, enables the scheduling and recording of vaccinations for all 4.5 million citizens who are eligible for vaccination and allows Scotland’s general population to book their own appointments through a citizen portal.
“Our clinical database, made up of information we receive directly from different Scottish health boards, feeds ServiceNow with data drawn from all the individual patient cohorts we’ve created based on various risk factors. It then creates a schedule based on the clinics, locations, and staff we have available. We then validate those schedules with health boards, they push extracts to printing companies, and then send notifications to the relevant patient cohorts with appointment times, instructions, and other information.”
With one single view, and one single project architecture, Mitchelson and the team now get a better view of the processes and data under their control:
“We have a much clearer view of all our data, and this data has been absolutely fundamental in further optimising and streamlining vaccine delivery. The supply chain is getting smoother, the integration is getting tighter, and we’re learning every day how to better plan and react to the realities on the ground.”
From vaccines to contact tracing and PPE
The partnership between ServiceNow and NHS Scotland is now helping deliver a range of different services to help fight the pandemic—like contact tracing, for example.
“By integrating our data science and reporting processes, we now offer one seamless data processing journey, from COVID test all the way through to contact tracing. And that means contact tracers get the data they need to do their jobs better. It’s been a huge success: We now have around 2,000 contact tracers using it.”
According to Mitchelson, the Now Platform® has also proved essential in the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) across Scotland.
“NSS has sourced and supplied more than 800 million items of PPE to date during the COVID pandemic, a scaling up that was only possible by harnessing the right technology.
“Our customer app, built in ServiceNow, allows us to see who’s requesting what, how they were getting it, where the delays are in the system. And by connecting these data streams right into our facilities and our distribution stations, we’ve been able to respond to this information extremely effectively.”
Based on these successes, the team has been able to offer valuable smaller-scale services, too.
“The Now Platform is helping us manage care home testing, and lateral flow testing in schools, too. Not only does that mean we can get teachers, pupils, and the elderly tested, we can seamlessly feed that data back to our contact tracing and data science platforms to guide our other operations.”
With ServiceNow, anything is possible
The experience of the past year has really shown Mitchelson, his colleagues in the NHS, and his partners in government just how agile public services can be—and has offered much food for thought for the future.
“We just wouldn’t have been able to roll out these campaigns with the sheer agility and pace that we have without ServiceNow. The results have already led our colleagues in government to ask how we can drive efficiencies in our other existing health programmes, and also large-scale programmes beyond the health space.
“We’re obviously a little busy at the moment for that… but I’m really excited to see what else we can achieve when the situation in the NHS starts to get back to normal. It feels like with ServiceNow, pretty much anything is possible.”